Cartografía poética de la lírica ecuatoriana actual. Intertextualidad, minimalismo y estructura conceptual en la poesía de Iván Carvajal

Using the poetry of Iván Carvajal (San Gabriel, 1948) as an approaching tool to establish the cartography and new directions of the current Ecuadorian poetry, this paper examines three interrelated aspects of his lyrical world: intertextuality, poetic minimalism, and the conceptual structure of the metaphorical language.

Iván Carvajal, a well-known intellectual figure, essayist, journalist, and literary critic, is one of the major contemporary poets of Ecuador. His poetic corpus includes nine concise and well-crafted masterpieces of poetry written between 1980 and 2004: Poemas de un mal tiempo para la lírica/Poems of a Bad Time for Lyricism (1980), Del avatar/On Avatar (1981), Los amantes de Sumpa/The Lovers of Sumpa (1983), Parajes/Places (1983, National Prize of Literature Aurelio Espinoza Pólit, 1983), En los labios/La celada/ On the Lips/The Ambush (1996), Opera (1997), Inventando a Lennon/Inventing Lennon (1997), La ofrenda del cerezo/The Cherry Tree Offering (2000), and La casa del furor/The House of Rage (2004).

Carvajal’s lyrical development has been solid and innovative, and his unique literary production has placed him at the forefront of contemporary Ecuadorian poetry. Although the themes of his work follow wide currents of Latin American poetry (time, love, death, memory, solitude, identity), the artistic treatment of them through the strategies of irony, parody, intertextuality, analogy, ambiguity, hermeticism, and conceptualism is powerful and personal. Therefore the high quality of Carvajal’s poetry could provide a valuable insight and guide into the intertextual conversation of major poems and poets of Ecuador and Latin America.

This exploration of the process of poetic creation and of the treatment of poetic discourse is structured and organized around the concept of intertextuality, the key tool in the mapping of his lyrical discourse. To that end, I shall draw upon a limited body of poems chosen from his eight books of poetry to provide a reliable spectrum of texts for my thematic, stylistic, and hermeneutical analysis. Key in my endeavor will be the exploration of Carvajal’s concept of cultural poetics to determine the importance of intertextual, stylistic, and semiotic features of the poetic processes in which the meaning of Carvajal’s texts is encoded. That strategy will uncover the interplay between text and context, language and social situations, and between conceptual structure and cultural practices in both Ecuador and Latin America.

Carvajal’s intellectual and dense poetry shows a meticulous concern for the linguistic, conceptual, and metaphorical aspects of poetic creation, combined with great skill and poetic technique. The intertextual resonances of Carvajal’s poetic discourse draw continuously the reader’s attention into the many poems that build the original cartography of his lyrical world. Carvajal’s poems are autonomous entities but, as intertextual constructions, their meaning is fully appreciated only in relation to other texts which they take up, cite, parody, refute, or generally transform and develop over and over again.

Even though Carvajal’s work has appeared in numerous anthologies and publications, his literary significance as a major Latin American poet is still waiting for recognition abroad. Despite being an important contributor to the poetic renewal and transformation of the so-called new Ecuadorian poetry, he has not received the international recognition he deserves and his artistic and aesthetic contributions to the new Latin American poetry are largely unknown. Therefore one of the objectives of this paper is to write a comprehensive and critical examination of his art in order to argue the quality of his poetry and thus contribute to his international appreciation.

My hypothesis is that the true identity and uniqueness of Carvajal’s poetics is to be discovered in the multiple levels of intertextuality that permeate and crisscross his poetry. I hope therefore to demonstrate that intertextuality is not only a poetic strategy but also the governing artistic principle of all of his poetry, tightly intertwined with the currents of tradition and modernity, imitation and creativity, linguistic density and complex metaphorical structures, symbolic and even political representation.

To accomplish this and to clarify the complex thematic, structural, and aesthetic connections between the poet and the traditions and writers who have shaped his own voice, I will refer to Carvajal’s intertextual approaches to poetry by pointing out the way in which he incorporates other writers’ texts in his own poetry and how he manages to write an exceptional poetry firmly based in tradition, imitation, renovation, and quotation.

To sum it up, my paper has the goal of answering the following questions: How does Carvajal’s intertextuality, in themes, metaphors and symbols, influence strategies of lyrical representation in poetry? Do poems, in their multiple relations with other texts (through strategies of influence, imitation, reference, parody, and quotation), reflect aesthetic, cultural, social and even political trends? Do Carvajal’s poems illustrate the major paths of development of the current New Ecuadorian Poetry?


  • Spanish American Studies