Daily Video

August 31, 2011

Nicaraguan Poet Explores Universe, Cosmos in New Works

Watch Poet, Activist Ernesto Cardenal Explores Cosmos, Humanity... on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Spanish poet Ernesto Cardenal is one of Latin America’s best-known writers, but he has also been one of its most controversial.

During the Nicaraguan revolution, he took on a significant political role and issued comments against the Vatican that resulted in his being stripped of his priesthood. Now, at age 86, he has still not regained his official title as a priest and cannot perform sacraments like baptisms or marriages. He likes it that way.

“My vocation was contemplative, and I always exercised the priesthood in a contemplative manner, and, like a poet, delivering my message, my sermons in my poems,” he says.

In his newest work, Cardenal has written about man’s relationship with the universe and the cosmos, subjects he says he became able to write about as he aged.

“One matures, and can write about things one couldn’t before. One couldn’t get poetry out of this theme or this situation,” he says. “And later, you can do it because you have more technical ability to do it. Now I can do easily things that were impossible for me to do when I was younger.”

Warm Up Questions

1. What is poetry?

2. Name some poets whose work you like or are familiar with. Why do you like it? What about it speaks to you?

3. Where is Latin America? What writers do you know of who have come from that part of the world?

Discussion Questions

1. Cardenal says he couldn’t have written his newest poems at any other time in his life. Why do you think he felt he had to “mature” before writing about certain subjects? Are there issues you feel you can write or talk about now that you weren’t able to when you were younger?

2. Outline what you learned about Nicaraguan politics in this video.

3. Out of the excerpts Cardenal read from his work in this video, which was your favorite? Why?

Additional Resources

Video Transcript

NewsHour Poetry Series

Download this Video

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