- Category: PA 2011
Born in 1950 in Chile, Raúl Zurita is arguably one of Latin America’s most powerful, acclaimed and controversial poets. Zurita started out studying engineering before turning to poetry.
After Augusto Pinochet’s military coup that expelled the democratically-elected government, Zurita’s poetry sought to record the violence and atrocities committed against the Chilean people and the corruption of the Spanish language. As just a 24-year-old student, on the morning of the coup, Zurita was arrested, detained and tortured; an event that would undoubtedly spark in this poet the zeal to write about the contemporary epoch, and later firmly establish him as a distinctive poetic voice.
During Pinochet’s dictatorship that lasted from 1973 to 1990, Zurita published a Dantean trilogy of books composed over a span of 15 years:Purgatory (1979), Anteparadise (1982) and The New Life (1993). A landmark in contemporary Latin American poetry, Purgatory records the physical, cultural, and spiritual violence perpetrated against the Chilean people under Pinochet's tyranny. In an attempt to foreground performance as an act of political violence, Zurita also wrote poems in the sky above New York City, bulldozed poems in the Chilean desert, and helped to form the art collective Colectivo de Accion de Arte.
Zurita’s other poetry collections include: El Paraíso Esta Vacío (1984), Canto a Su Amor (1985), El Amor de Chile (1987) and In Memoriam (2007), among others Zurita is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Chilean National Prize for Literature, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Casa de las Americas Prize from Cuba and the National Poetry Prize of Chile. His work has been translated into a dozen languages.
Of Raúl Zurita, online poetry magazine, Jacket Magazine says: "More than anything, [he] emits warmth. As if there were honeysuckle under his skin."