Two unpublished poems provide a rare glimpse into the great Nicaraguan poet Rub√©n Dar√≠o according to two distinguished guests at a conference last Thursday.
Also called the father of modernism, Dar√≠o’s poetry touched on topics such as the future of the Americas, indigenous issues and the strength of identity.
The opening speech, full of praise for the late Dar√≠o, was given by the esteemed consular general of Nicaragua, Dr. Jos√© Antonio Flores.
However, it was the tireless work of David Whitesell, a librarian at Harvard University’s Houghton Library, that brought about the discovery. He began this pursuit for books written by the late Dar√≠o in December of 1997.
This quest was inspired by Whitesell’s accidental discovery of two manuscripts written upside down on the back cover of a book by another author. A minor poet, Pedro Na√≥n, wrote the book, entitled Eglantinas. The front flyleaf had an inscription written on it that stated Ruben Dar√≠o once owned it. Further investigation revealed that the book was a gift to Dar√≠o sent by the author himself.
Dar√≠o, it is assumed appreciated the gift, opened it from the back, turned it upside down, and proceeded to write his own book of poems. “Dar√≠o had a ready- made poetry notebook with a hundred blank pages,” said Whitesell.
This discovery would open up a world of investigations for Whitesell, into the life of the poet.
Whitesell spoke of the important literary friendships that were to be discovered, and knowledge of how Dar√≠o composed and revised his work. The answers were hidden in Dario’s private collection of books.
He was a figure who led a writer’s lifestyle full of great literature, friends and travels. Although he left more than 800 works of poetry behind, there was still little known about the life of this widely respected and praised Latin American poet.
At the opening of the conference, Whitesell expressed his unrelenting interest in learning more about the writer and his literary world. He seemed interested in bringing the works of literature by Dar√≠o to life by putting them into context within the poet’s life.
“After nearly a century of silence, these books now speak eloquently to us, telling us much about Dar√≠o that was previously unknown,” said Whitesell.
The event was orchestrated by Dr. Alina Camacho- Gingerich, chair of the Committee on Latin American and Caribbean Studies located on the second floor of Bent Hall.
“The purpose of the event was to share with the university, as well as the surrounding community, the exciting findings of newly discovered poetry by one of Latin America’s most important poets, Rub√©n Dar√≠o,” said Gingerich. “I organized this event because I wanted to share with all that were present one more aspect of the richness of Latin American culture.”
Szilvia Szmuck, St. John’s University’s special collections librarian who was in attendance stated, “The event went very well. It was obvious that the topic was well researched. Mr. Whitesell demonstrated that librarians, through detective research, can unravel parts of history’s treasures that are hidden in the stacks of shelves in the library. and with his kind of thorough scholarship [Whitesell] was able to bring it to an international audience.”
“It was wonderful that the event was so well attended at St. John’s,” Szmuck added.