A Poet of “Sumptuous Sensuality” / Miguel Iturria Savón

Like Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda (Camaguey, 1814-Madrid, 1873), the great poet, essayist and journalist Gaston Baquero Díaz (Banes, Holguin, 1918 – Madrid, 1997) moved between Cuba and Spain, where he went in March 1959, when the revolution toppled the social pyramid to which his talent had elevated him, despite poverty and racial prejudice. Unlike Madam Gertrudis, who triumphed in Spain and was then became known on the island, Gaston was a goldsmith of letters and a character in the press at the time he abandoned the tropics. For him, Spain was the great stage, the ultimate creative landing stage.

Gastón Baquero belonged to the Origins generation, centered around José Lezama Lima, Eliseo Diego, Fina García Marruz, Cintio Vitier, Gaztelu and other writers of memorable work, united by their creative diversity and art as an essential reason.He began its intense cultural activity in the thirties, despite graduating as an agronomist and sugar chemist. He wrote poems, articles, essays and translated authors from English and French, such as T. E. Eliot, P. Valery, H. Aldmgton and G. Santayana. His first poems and writings have appeared in Havana newspapers and magazines: Social, Verbum, Baraguá, Grafos, Espuela de Plata, Revista Cubana, Orbe, Clavileño, Poeta, América and the celebrated Origins. From 1945 he worked as Chief Editor of the Journal of the Navy, where he wrote the sections “Panorama” and “Compass Needle.”

The poems “Park” and “Dead Girl” announce his adolescent precocity, but the significance of Baquero begins with the poignant Words Written in the Sand for an Innocent (1942), although he had published decenas such as “Federico García Lorca” “Sonnets of Death“, “Song“, “Adam in Paradise” and others included by Cintio Vitier in Ten Cuban Poets (1948), which include “Prelude to a Mask,” “The Knight, the Devil and Death” and “Testament of the Fish,” well-regarded by the critics. And evoking this luminous stage, María Zambrano said, “that the sumptuous richness of life, the delusions of the substance are first that the void …” Hence, he highlighted in the intuitive and precocious poet the “sumptuous sensuality” of his poems.

Before these anthology texts Baquero released Poems of Another Time (1937-1944), including “Sing the Lark at Heaven’s Door“, “Cassandra” and some which were not reissued; they remain bright and airy creations, which will diminish with his entry into professional journalism and public activities.

Gaston Baquero’s Spanish stage, marked by the industrious scriptural silence and some intellectual ostracism despite working at the Institute of Hispanic Culture and for Radio Exterior of Spain, he was prolific in journalism and literature. This period corresponds Poems Written in Spain (1960), Memorial of a Witness (1966), Spells and Investments (1984), Invisible Poems (1991), Autoanthology (1992), and the essays Hispanic Writers of Today (1961), The Development of Marxism in Latin America (1966), Dario, Cernuda and Other Poetic Themes (1969), Indians, Blacks and Whites in the Cauldron of America (1991), Approaching Dulce Maria Loynaz (1993), The Inexhaustible Source (1995) and two volumes of his poems and essays prepared by Alfonso Ortega Carmona and Alfredo Pérez Alencart and edited by the Hispanic Foundation.

His vast work is barely known in Cuba, where his name was removed from the publishing world for extra-literary reasons, until 1999 when Efraín Rodríguez Santana, who received a scholarship in Hispanic studies and gained the confidence of the author in Madrid, published the anthology Gastón Baquero The Sonorous Homeland of Fruit, which contains much of his verse, a Bibliography and an Appendix on his life and work, with texts by Eugenio Florit, Emilio Ballagas, Lezama Lima, Cintio Vitier, Fina García Marruz, Eliseo Diego , Francisco Brines, Jose Kozer, Pius E. Serrano, Felipe Lázaro and others.

The postmortem tribute brought young artists back to the great lyricist, described by Lezama Lima as a sonorous poet “with an incorruptible vocation,” living in “the house of poetry.” Other members of the Origins group shed light on the poet from Banes. To Cintio Vitier, “the mulatto with the face of an African prince,” was a “stunning island behind the fog”, who “oscillates between life and imagination, between emotion and invention, between poetry and the person.”

Critics and supporters of Gaston Baquero carved out the universal coordinates of his poems and literary reviews, which reflect his philosophical and aesthetic principles, marked by eloquence, conjurers of death, Catholicism as a vocation, fantasy and culture, and the premise of the poem as a legitimate character of poetic creation.

As Gaston noted that one should have the courage, at the end of the road, to keep two or three poems representative of the intention he had to write, I will say which I would choose as his fabulous legacy. For the reader, I am sure that the transcendent journey, the rescue of the city, and the poetic play with history, will encourage you to go in pursuit of his verses. My choices are these:
* Words Written in the Sand for the Innocent.
* Testament of the Fish.
* Brandenburg 1526

October 11, 2010