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Rafael Pombo

Rafael Pombo

Colombia (1833-1912)

Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango,

Rafael Pombo was born in Bogotá in 1833 and grew in an creole aristocratic, wealthy and traditional family. His academic training was based on reading and studying languages. Hence, from a young age he was interested in writing, publishing and translating all kind of texts. He received the degree in Humanities and then in Math and Engineering. His studies were consistent with what was going to be a reality in the nineteenth century: the role of the poet lost status by itself, in a society that began to professionalize its skills. He became part of the loyalist army that stood against general Melo reaching the title of colonel. However, he never abandoned his interest in culture and writing. In 1852 he founded 'La Siesta', a cultural producer with romantic lines, accompanied by the renowned colombian writer Jose María Vergara y Vergara.

Commonly Pombo’s work is associated to the romantic literary movement from which he was a regular reader. In fact, encyclopedias define him as the quintessential romantic colombian poet, influenced by the works of Zorrilla, Victor Hugo and Byron. But the style of the poet, cultivated throughout his life, should not be classified uniquely. The first stage of his scriptural project is directly linked to his youth in Bogota, from which emerged the poems published posthumously as Exabruptos literarios, characterized by a sentimental tone and the patriotic intention to portray the local culture. A second stage is related to his move to New York where he occupied a politic charge. There, his writing became skeptical and unbelieving, revealing a distressed poet. La hora de las tinieblas and the Diario de un poeta en Nueva York, two of his most extensive works, anticipated many of the American modernist movements characteristics. These contrast sharply with the two volumes of tales, Cuentos morales para niños formales and Cuentos pintados, written also in the US, that follow the proper tone of anglo-saxon romanticism.

A third stage occurred when he returned to Bogota, where he assumed cultural and politics charges, and the social elite recognized his importance as a public figure. In 1905 he was named as the best national poet reaching the maximum height of his intellectual career. During that year his fragile health retreated him into his home, where many reunions and visits with the intellectuals of Bogota took place. In 1912 the poet died in his bed, leaving his complete work in four volumes which includes critical essays, stories, and approximately 1400 poems, published posthumously. Certainly he is a key reference in the colombian literature, mainly for its popular children’s characters. Not surprisingly the national government declared 2012 as the year or Rafael Pombo, to pay tribute to his life and work.

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