Installation of poems by the celebrated Chilean poet Raúl Zurita, a foremost figure of contemporary Latin American literature
In collaboration with Sergio Delgado Moya, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures
The poems selected for EL HAMBRE DE MI CORAZÓN are representative of Raúl Zurita's larger body of work: poetry that broaches themes of pain, death, redemption, and hope. The writing of poetry in landscapes across the Americas – from the skies of New York (La vida nueva) to the desert of Atacama in Chile (Ni pena ni miedo) – is the departure point for this exhibition. In walls and nooks scattered through the offices of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard, the work of one of the most resonant voices in poetry from the Americas is showcased, temporarily placing it in the heart of a dynamic center of scholarship in a style and proportion that plays on the monumentality of Zurita's landscape poems.
Zurita forms part of a living hemispheric tradition that subverts picturesque notions of landscape in favor of more nuanced, historically informed, politically incisive renditions of the natural environment. Chilean artists and writers have been at the forefront of this politicized understanding of landscape, re-inscribing it in ways that make apparent the traces of conflict and violence so often erased from the more idealized, more pastoral renditions of nature.
A layered notion of landscape is present from the very first works by Zurita (“Un matrimonio en el campo”), epigrammatic and somberly visual poems printed on plaster slates resembling tombstones. These and other poems by Zurita use beautifully terse language to give voice to the experience of political oppression: voice to the people, the communities, and the natural environments that have succumbed to state violence. The poems in the present exhibition, while evocative of the military dictatorship in Chile, are written in a voice universal enough to conjure other instances of state oppression, both past and present, distant and close to home.
Raúl Zurita (b. 1950) is among the most celebrated, and decorated, living Latin American writers. During the Chilean dictatorship that lasted from 1973 to 1990, Zurita published a trilogy of books: Purgatory, Anteparadise, and The New Life, and helped to form the art collective Colectivo de Accion de Arte (CADA) that used performance as an act of political resistance. He is a Professor at the Universidad Diego Portales, Chile, and has been a Visiting Professor at Tufts University and California State University, Long Beach. Zurita was the DRCLAS RFK Visiting Scholar during the Spring 2016 semester and taught the course Poetry, Art and Adversity, in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.