Because of his inclination to pure poetry, some critics consider Guillén to be a disciple of poet Juan Ramón Jiménez. Guillén broke into the literary scene at a relatively late age: his first book, Cántico, was published when he was 35 years old.
Cántico was initially published in the Revista de Occidente and included only 75 poems. Three successively larger editions were later published. The final version, published in 1950 in Buenos Aires, consisted of 334 poems divided into five sections: Al aire de tu vuelo, Las horas situadas, El pájaro en la mano, Aquí mismo and Pleno ser. In this work, he basked in the joy of existence, the harmony of the universe, the peak of humanity, and the integration of the poet into a universe of perfection where one more often finds himself loved. Optimism and serenity characterize the poetry of his first book.
With the experience of the Spanish Civil War, he wrote his second book of poetry, Clamor. This second work shows an awareness for the temporary nature of life and allows the introduction of the negative side of history: misery, war, pain, death. It is composed of three parts: Maremágnum (1957), whose central focus - Luzbel desconcertado and La hermosa y los excéntricos - presented a lack of harmony; Que van a dar en el mar (1960), where the idea of the continuity brought by death is developed; and A la altura de las circumstancias (1963), where the struggle to re-establish balance appears. If Cántico exalted the perfection of creation, Clamor tore it down. In spite of this, the book was not perceived as an overly anguished or pessimistic work because in it Guillén re-assesses his will to live.
Homenaje was published in 1967. As it is indicated in its title, Guillén honoured outstanding people of the world of art and science using the techniques of dramatic monologue and of imagery.
He gave the title Aire nuestro to the compilation of his three great poetry books prior to 1968. He would later publish Y otros poemas (1973) and Final (1982).
The complexity of Guillén's work resides in his ideal of pure poetry, which can be summarised as:
Guillén also translated Le cimetière marin (The aquatic cemetery) by Paul Valery (M., Paris, Bs. As., 1930).
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