Poetry News

Queering Rubén Darío

By Harriet Staff
Rubén Darío

Last week, Poetry International published a talk that Francisco Aragón presented at the most recent Split This Rock Poetry Festival, on translation as activism. In the post, "Translation As Activism," Aragón discusses his work as a translator of the great Nicaraguan poet, Rubén Darío, and the way he developed a translation/imitation of Darío's poem "De invierno," the title Aragón translates as "Winter Hours." After publishing his version of the poem in 2011, Aragón discovered new biographical information about Darío which changed his approach to the translation. We'll pick up the story there:

But then, in 2012, Arizona State University issued a press release whose headline read:

ASU Libraries acquires rare manuscripts of Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío

One paragraph leapt off the page at me:

“The documents have already begun to alter the scholarship on Darío. The peer-reviewed ‘Bulletin of Spanish Studies,’ a prestigious academic journal from the United Kingdom, has published an article by [Alberto] Acereda in its September 2012 issue based on the letters found in the ASU collection. The article, ‘Nuestro más profundo y sublime secreto: Los amores transgresores entre Rubén Darío y Amado Nervo,’ reveals for the first time a secret romantic relationship between Darío and famed Mexican poet Amado Nervo (1870 – 1919).”

During the years I lived in Spain, my literary friends had given me the skinny on the closeted Amado Nervo, so no surprise there. But Rubén Darío?! His name had never been a part of that conversation. Lorca? Yes. His contemporary, Vicente Aleixandre? Yes. Luis Cernuda, another member of the noted “generación del ’27,” who died in exile in Mexico? Yes again. But not Rubén Darío.

The plot took an interesting, if disappointing, turn when Sergio Ramírez, the noted Nicaraguan novelist, penned a piece alleging that the Darío-Nervo letters were fake. This prompted me to imagine a response in the voice of Rubén Darío—from the grave: an epistolary poem addressed to Sergio Ramírez, one which pushed back, underscoring, in essence: the letters to, and my love for, Amado Nervo were real. I titled my letter-in-verse, “January 21, 2013,” in reference to the day Richard Blanco became the first Latinx, and the first openly gay poet, to read an inaugural poem to begin Barack Obama’s second term.

In the meantime, Alberto Acereda, the imminent Darío scholar cited above, published a follow-up article that clocked in at 30+ pages, unleashing an airtight case detailing why the letters in question were real. In his earlier piece, in Bulletin of Spanish Studies, he had offered: “[T]hese letters offer us a Darío and Nervo who are even more human, more passionate than what we imagined…”

Read on from there, along with the original Darío poem and Aragón's two versions in translation.

Originally Published: May 29th, 2018