(b. May 17, 1954, Havana, Cuba
, has lived in the United States since December 1960). A Cuban-American poet, pioneer art critic of Latin American art in the US and Europe, and author of short fiction.
Pau-Llosa was born into a working-class family in Havana. In 1960 Pau-Llosa came out of Cuba with his parents, older sister, and maternal grandmother — all of whom emerge in his autobiographical poems of exile and remembrance. He graduated from Belén Jesuit Preparatory High School in Miami in 1971, and went on to major in English (literature) at various universities, among them Florida International University (BA, 1974), Florida Atlantic University (MA, 1976), and the University of Florida (1978-1981, ABD). Divorced with no children, Pau-Llosa is also an avid collector of modern, naif and tribal art from the Americas. He lives in Miami.
Career & Writings
His Pulitzer-nominated third book of poems, Cuba
(Carnegie Mellon U Press, 1993), is the first major collection written in English that deals exclusively with diverse aspects of his native country’s history, art and literature; it also depicts the epic of exile and liberation which shapes his life and that of 20% of Cuba’s population which have fled the island since the communist takeover in 1959. The book was influential for the conversational tone with which the poems intertwine the personal with reflections on historical and aesthetic themes, as in the much anthologized poems “Frutas" and "Charada China." Cuba
also includes poems which defy the usual prohibitions against the political in high art. “Ganadería," for example, uses the trope of Castro’s fascination with a cow, Ubre Blanca
, to expose the cruelty of his dictatorship.
Pau-Llosa’s previous books of poetry, Sorting Metaphors (Anhinga Press and winner of the first national Anhinga Prize, 1983) and Bread of the Imagined (Bilingual Press, 1992), reflect his passionate interest in how metaphor, metonymy and other tropes evoke in readers vivid states of awareness, like those Edmund Husserl, father of modern Phenomenology, made central to his philosophy. After Cuba, Pau-Llosa would employ trope-rich language to write poems about Cuban music and cultural survival in exile, as in Vereda Tropical (Carnegie Mellon, 1999), and other poems which explore the links between sexuality, imagination and parable-making, as in his latest collections: Mastery Impulse (2003) and Parable Hunter (2008), both from Carnegie Mellon.
Since the mid-1970’s, Pau-Llosa has used tropes to generate an original model of art criticism which maintains that Latin American modernist painting and sculpture is distinct from parallel currents in Europe and United States precisely because of the high presence of metaphor, metonymy and synecdoche in its images. He also maintains, in major essays on Cuban exile art (Outside Cuba/Fuera de Cuba, Rutgers & U Miami, 1989), Rogelio Polesello and Nicolás Leiva of Argentina, Fernando de Szyszlo of Perú, Olga de Amaral of Colombia among others, that the Latin American propensity to think visually in terms of complex tropes enabled the region’s modernists to expand, rather than suspend, the power of representation and to incorporate historically charged images at a time when historicism was anathema to abstractionists elsewhere. With this approach, he has also brought new insights into the works of Joaquin Torres-García of Uruguay, Amelia Peláez of Cuba, Jesús Soto of Venezuela, Frida Kahlo and Rufino Tamayo of Mexico and Melquíades Rosario and Arnaldo Roche-Rabell of Puerto Rico.
Pau-Llosa’s poetry has been published in American Poetry Review, Denver Quarterly, Iowa Review, Kayak, Kenyon Review, New England Review, Ontario Review, Partisan Review, Southern Review, TriQuarterly, and in numerous anthologies. He was a senior editor of Art International (Lugano, later Paris) from 1982 to 1994, North American editor for Southward Art (Buenos Aires), and a contributor and advisor to the encyclopedic Dictionary of Art (London: Macmillan, 1996). A frequent lecturer at major art venues, his art criticism has appeared frequently in Sculpture, Drawing, Arte al Día and other magazines, and he has served as a juror and curator in various international biennials and group exhibitions.
Pau-Llosa was interviewed
by the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
in a special series that couples profiles of contemporary poets with reports on news and trends in the world of poetry.
- Bain, Carol E., Jerome Beaty and J. Paul Hunter, eds. The Norton Introduction to Literature. 6th edition. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995.
- Collins, Billy, ed. 180 More Extraordinary Poems for Every Day. New York: Random House, 2005.
- Frank, Patrick, ed. Readings in Latin American Modern Art. New Haven, Connecticut & London: Yale University Press, 2004.
- Hernández Cruz, Víctor, Leroy V. Quintana and Virgil Suárez, eds. Paper Dance. New York: Persea Books, 1995.
- Luís, William. Dance Between Two Cultures: Latino Caribbean Literature Written in the United States. Nashville: Vanderbilt U Press, 1997.
- Milián, Alberto. “Defying Time and History: Ricardo Pau-Llosa." Interview, Manoa, 15.1 (2003).
- Pau-Llosa, Ricardo. Clarence Holbrook Carter. New York: Rizzoli, 1989. With Frank Trapp and Douglas Dreishpoon.
- ________. Rafael Soriano: The Poetics of Light. Miami: Ediciones Habana Vieja, 1998.
- ________. “To Dwell in Passing: The Art of Hugo Consuegra" in Hugo Consuegra. Miami: Ediciones Universal, 2006.
- ________. “The Music of the Eye, or the Emergence of the Thaumaturgical Object" in Olga de Amaral: el manto de la memoria (Olga de Amaral: The Mantle of Memory). Bogotá: Ediciones Zona & Seguros Bolívar, 2000.
- Shapard, Robert and James Thomas, eds. Sudden Fiction International (Continued). New York: W. W. Norton, 1996.
- Viera, Joseph M. Entry on Ricardo Pau-Llosa. The Continuum Encyclopedia of American Literature. Steven R. Serafin, ed. New York & London: Continuum, 2003.
External Links to Publications