5 Interesting Things About Nicolas Guillen

As we continue to focus on Cuban poet Nicolas Guillen this month, I would like to share 5 interesting things I learned about him:

  • He was born the year in which Cuba gained its independence from Spain (1902)
  • His Elegy for Emmett Till (Elegia A Emmett Till), was published in New York's The Crisis magazine in 1955.
  • Guillen briefly studied law at Havana University, but later returned to Camaguey, where he was born, to study journalism.
  • During Batista's dictatorship in the 1950s, Guillen was in exile in Paris. He returned to Cuba in 1958.
  • Guillen was President of the Union of Cuban Writers and Artists, which allowed him to travel the world as a cultural ambassador.


Leonard Dabydeen said...

Ample Blood by Nicholas Guillen

Eduardo Garcia Delgado, was a young soldier who wrote the name of Fidel with his
own blood on a door in a building in Ciudad Libertad just before he died, after
being gunned down by the US backed mercenary air force during the criminal
bombings of April 15, 1961.

When this soldier who died

for his country wrote Fidel

with his blood, do not say a Miserere:

that blood is a sign that

the Homeland lives.

When without voice,

he cannot find

words to express himself,

do not tell him to be quiet,

for in the pure tongue of the Homeland

it resounds.

When his body falls

lifeless to the ground keen to cover him,

do not say that he rests,

as for the Homeland he shines and works


Now no-one can stop his

joint and open heart.

Do not say that he has gone:

his ample blood remains part of the Homeland

Nicolás Guillén

(Translated by Mike Phillips)

Yasmin Morais said...


Thanks for sharing this Guillen poem, Ample Blood. It is very touching. Thanks also for sharing the Eduardo Garcia Delgado story. I appreciate your feedback.

Leonard Dabydeen said...

Please post another beautiful Revolutionary poem by Nicholas Guillen:

Angela Davis by Nicolas Guillen—the Cuban Revolution’s poet-laureate
( posted in granma for poetry – December 17, 2011)

(Translation by Roberto Marquez)

I have not come to tell you you are beautiful.
I believe you are beautiful,
but that is not the issue.
The issue is they want you dead.
They need your skull
to decorate the tent of the Great Chief,
beside the skulls of Jackson and Lumumba.

And, Angela,
we need your smile.

We are going to change the walls hate has constructed,
for the transparent walls of air,
and the roof of your anguish,
for a roof of clouds and birds,
and the guard who conceals you,
for an archangel with his sword.

How your executioners mislead themselves!
You are made of rough and glowing stuff,
a rustproof impulse,
capable of lasting through suns and rains,
through winds and moons
in the unsheltered air.
You belong to
that class of dreams in which time
has always forged its statues
and written its songs.

Angela, I am not before your name
to speak to you of love like an adolescent,
or to desire you like a satyr.
That, alas, is not the issue.
I merely say that you are strong, resilient
enough to leap at (and fracture) the neck
of those who have wanted , still want, and will always
to see you burned alive bound to the south of your
bound to a cinder post,
bound to a leafless oak,
bound to a burning cross alive bound to the South.

The enemy is clumsy.
He wants to silence your voice with his own,
but we all know,
your voice alone resounds,
that it alone ignites
high in the night like an exploding column ,
an arrested lighting flash,
a vertical consuming fire,
a recurring thunderbolt beneath whose light we glimpse
Blacks with fiery nails,
weakened and angry people.

Beneath the dream accomplished where I live
beside the decisive militia,
by the bitter edge of this terrible but friendly sea,
watching furious waves collapse on the breakers,
I yell, and make my voice travel on the shoulders
of the great passing wind
my wind our father the Caribbean.

Angela I say your name, vociferate. I join my hands
not in pleas, entireties, supplications, prayers
to your jailers for your pardon
but in applauding action, hand meeting hand,
hard and strong, very strong,
hand meeting hand so that you will know I’m yours!

Yasmin Morais said...


Thanks for sharing Guillen's Angela Davis poem. This was the first time I ever saw the poem, and I enjoyed reading it. I am really glad you posted it for the readers.

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