Gonzalo Rojas: Poetry’s Fiery Voice from Latin America

OV Digital Desk

Gonzalo Rojas Pizarro (December 20, 1916 – April 25, 2011) was a Chilean poet.His work is part of the continuing Latin American avant-garde literary tradition of the twentieth century. In 2003 he was awarded the Cervantes Prize. He received Chilean National Prize for Literature in 1992. During the course of his career, he wrote and published more than 40 collections of poetry, often focusing on melodic words that are pleasing to the ear.

On 20 December 1916, Rojas was born in Lebu, Chile. After attending a boarding school on scholarship, he attended the University of Chile in Santiago to study law and literature. In addition to working on his first poetry volume, Rojas taught literacy to miners in the Atacama Desert. During this time, he also founded a literary journal called Antárctica and served as its editor.

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The publication of his first collection, La miseria del hombre (The Misery of Man), in 1948, won him international recognition as a poet. Rojas published countless more collections like Contra la muerte (Against Death, 1964), Oscuro (Darkness, 1977), and Del relámpago (Of Lightning, 1981) throughout his seven-decade career.

Furthermore, during the height of Latin American literature in the 1960s, he served as a lecturer and administrator at the University of Concepción. In the early 1970s, Rojas served as a diplomatic ambassador until he was exiled due to political tensions. Later, he taught Spanish literature at universities in Germany, Spain, the United States, and other countries.

A Guggenheim scholarship enabled Rojas to return to Chile in 1979. He settled in the city of Chillán, where he continued publishing celebrated works of poetry. He went on to win the Chilean National Prize for Literature (Chile’s highest national award for writers), the Miguel de Cervantes Prize of Spain, the Octavio Paz Prize of Mexico and the José Hernandez Prize of Argentina in his later years.

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