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If the Writers of the World Get Together: Allen Ginsberg in Sandinista Nicaragua

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Abstract:

This paper examines two hemispheric “crossroads” traversed by a group of poets in the Americas in the 1960s and 1980s. The site of the first set of crossroads is _El Corno Emplumado/ The Plumed Horn_, a bilingual literary magazine that began in 1962 in Mexico City, edited by North American poet Margaret Randall and Mexican poet Sergio Mondragón. _Corno_ sought to initiate a transnational literary subculture of poets, small magazines, and offbeat bookstores, thus using poetry to bridge the divide between North America and Latin America (its name combined the jazz horn of North America with the Plumed Serpent of the Aztecs). _Corno’s_ heaviest representation was from Mexico, Cuba, and the United States. Poems of North American Beats like Allen Ginsberg were common, as were poems by the Nicaraguan poet Ernesto Cardenal. _Corno_ proposed a process of cultural cross-pollination by which the Beat poets’ countercultural consciousness and Ernesto Guevara’s new socialist man might come together. Yet these twin influences—cultural rebellion from the north and political revolution from the south—offered as many points of divergence as convergence. Instead of fusing the cultural currents of north and south, this poets’ Panamericanism of the 1960s often acted as a proto-political force, leading both North American and Latin American writers (Randall and Cardenal among them) to turn away from the cultural rebellion represented by U.S. countercultures and embrace national political revolution on the model of Cuba.

The site of the second set of crossroads is Sandinista Nicaragua. The Sandinista leadership abounded with literary figures, the poetry and testimonios written by these leaders were key to the development of a revolutionary culture that unified opposition to the rule of Anastasio Somoza Debayle. After the Sandinista victory in 1979, what was called the “nation of poets,” became what might be called a “nation-state of poets.” Scores of writers went to Nicaragua, including Margaret Randall, who moved from Cuba to interview the major writers of Nicaragua, among others. In 1982, Ernesto Cardenal (then Minister of Culture) joined with two former _Corno_ contributors, Allen Ginsberg and Soviet poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, to draft a declaration that would invite “all the world’s writers” to travel to Nicaragua. By asking for support for a single nation, the declaration is quite different from the transnationalism of _Corno,_ which brought together its three authors twenty years before. Yet the declaration does not ask for a nationalist solidarity—writers supporting the revolutionary nation-state—as much as it asks that writers support Nicaragua because it is a country of writers, of poets. This turn to literary solidarity is not a retreat from politics as much as it is an attempt to relocate the political in writing, especially in dissident and nonconformist writing, at a time when fear of authoritarianism was high. If at the first crossroads, the movement was from rebellious poetry to national politics, then the movement suggested by the “Declaration of Three” is the opposite: from national politics to the politics of poetry.
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Name: American Studies Association Annual Meeting
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MLA Citation:

Hardesty, Michele. "If the Writers of the World Get Together: Allen Ginsberg in Sandinista Nicaragua" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hyatt Regency, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Oct 16, 2008 <Not Available>. 2014-11-30 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p245259_index.html>

APA Citation:

Hardesty, M. , 2008-10-16 "If the Writers of the World Get Together: Allen Ginsberg in Sandinista Nicaragua" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hyatt Regency, Albuquerque, New Mexico <Not Available>. 2014-11-30 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p245259_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: This paper examines two hemispheric “crossroads” traversed by a group of poets in the Americas in the 1960s and 1980s. The site of the first set of crossroads is _El Corno Emplumado/ The Plumed Horn_, a bilingual literary magazine that began in 1962 in Mexico City, edited by North American poet Margaret Randall and Mexican poet Sergio Mondragón. _Corno_ sought to initiate a transnational literary subculture of poets, small magazines, and offbeat bookstores, thus using poetry to bridge the divide between North America and Latin America (its name combined the jazz horn of North America with the Plumed Serpent of the Aztecs). _Corno’s_ heaviest representation was from Mexico, Cuba, and the United States. Poems of North American Beats like Allen Ginsberg were common, as were poems by the Nicaraguan poet Ernesto Cardenal. _Corno_ proposed a process of cultural cross-pollination by which the Beat poets’ countercultural consciousness and Ernesto Guevara’s new socialist man might come together. Yet these twin influences—cultural rebellion from the north and political revolution from the south—offered as many points of divergence as convergence. Instead of fusing the cultural currents of north and south, this poets’ Panamericanism of the 1960s often acted as a proto-political force, leading both North American and Latin American writers (Randall and Cardenal among them) to turn away from the cultural rebellion represented by U.S. countercultures and embrace national political revolution on the model of Cuba.

The site of the second set of crossroads is Sandinista Nicaragua. The Sandinista leadership abounded with literary figures, the poetry and testimonios written by these leaders were key to the development of a revolutionary culture that unified opposition to the rule of Anastasio Somoza Debayle. After the Sandinista victory in 1979, what was called the “nation of poets,” became what might be called a “nation-state of poets.” Scores of writers went to Nicaragua, including Margaret Randall, who moved from Cuba to interview the major writers of Nicaragua, among others. In 1982, Ernesto Cardenal (then Minister of Culture) joined with two former _Corno_ contributors, Allen Ginsberg and Soviet poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, to draft a declaration that would invite “all the world’s writers” to travel to Nicaragua. By asking for support for a single nation, the declaration is quite different from the transnationalism of _Corno,_ which brought together its three authors twenty years before. Yet the declaration does not ask for a nationalist solidarity—writers supporting the revolutionary nation-state—as much as it asks that writers support Nicaragua because it is a country of writers, of poets. This turn to literary solidarity is not a retreat from politics as much as it is an attempt to relocate the political in writing, especially in dissident and nonconformist writing, at a time when fear of authoritarianism was high. If at the first crossroads, the movement was from rebellious poetry to national politics, then the movement suggested by the “Declaration of Three” is the opposite: from national politics to the politics of poetry.


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