Antonio Cisneros

The Peruvian poet and novelist Antonio Cisneros was born in Lima in 1942 where, from 1960 to 1964, he studied literature at the »Catholic University«. Later he undertook a PhD at the »San Marcos University«. He had already begun to publish his poems with much success in his first few years as a student. His volume of poetry »Destierro« came out in 1961 and is now regarded as among the classics of Latin-American lyric poetry.

Early on he was still very much influenced by the Anglo-American beat-literature and inspired by its ironic gestures and its every-day sound. Later he turned more noticeably to political issues in order, so he emphasizes, to counteract the increasing political indifference in Latin-American society. The volume entitled »Comentarios reales de Antonio Cisneros« was aimed at the distortion of history by officials in his own country. The title, rich in associations, refers to the work of the first Castilian-writing Peruvian poet, Garcilaso de La Vega, also called »El Inca«, who attempted in his »Comentarios reales« to bring home the true history of his homeland to the Spanish conquerers. 

Cisneros had his greatest success to date in 1968 with the publication of »Canto cere-monial contra un oso hormiguero« for which he was honoured in Havanna with the prize of the »Casa de las Américas«. This collection, too, is influenced by his critical involvement with the social problems of his time. His elaborated play on language and intertextual references continually questions the artificial distinction between »pure« and »social« poetry.

Affected by the first political setbacks of socialism in Latin America and a crisis in his own life, he wrote in 1972, while in Nizza, »Como higuera en un campo de golf« in which he sets personal pain as the starting point for a critical examination of his own time. »Poetry cannot be subjected to any purpose. It is rather a kind of recognition, but recognition of oneself, and it is that which you communicate to others, together with the social and political unrest of your time.«

Since the end of the sixties Antonio Cisneros has held countless temporary teaching posts at international universities, among them Southampton, Nizza, Budapest and Virginia. In addition, grants have made possible longer stays in Paris, London and Berlin. Experiences gained during these stays have influenced this author’s later work.  He has since published twenty collections of lyric poems and two prose works, which have been translated into five languages.

In 2000 Cisneros was awarded the international »Gabriela Mistral Prize« in Mexico for his life’s work.

He is now living and working in Lima where, since 1996, he has been in charge of the daily radio programme »La Crónica del oso hormiguero«.

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