Juan Ramon Jimenez

Juan Ramon Jimenez (Moguer, Spain, 24 December 1881 – Santurce, Puerto Rico, 29 May 1958) was a Spanish poet. One of his most important contributions to modern poetry was the idea of poesia pura (Spanish for “pure poetry”). A prolific author, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1956.

Ramon Jimenez was born in Moguer, near Huelva, in Andalusia, Spain, on 24 December 1881. He celebrated his home region in his prose poem about a writer and his donkey, called Platero y Yo (1914). He studied law at the University of Seville, but he declined to put this training to use.

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Strongly influenced by the poet Ruben Dario, he published his first two books, in 1900, at the age of eighteen. The death of his father in this same year affected him deeply, and the resulting depression led to his being sent to a mental institution in France. Ten years later, he was transferred to the Sanatorio de El Rosario in Madrid. Soon afterwards, he made several trips to France and the United States, where in 1916 he married Zenobia Camprubi, a noted translator of the Indian writer, Rabindranath Tagore. Zenobia became his indispensable companion and collaborator.

Upon the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, he and Zenobia went into exile in Cuba, the U.S.A., and Puerto Rico, where he settled in 1946. Ramon Jimenez was hospitalized for eight months due to another deep depression. Ramon Jimenez later became a Professor of Spanish Language and Literature at the University of Maryland at College Park. In 1956, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature; three days later, his wife died of vaginal cancer. Ramon Jimenez never quite recuperated from this loss. He died two years afterwards, on 29 May 1958, in the same clinic where his wife had died. Both are buried in Spain.

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Although primarily a poet, Ramon Jimenez achieved popularity in the United States with the translation of his prose work Platero y yo (1917; “Platero and I”), the story of a man and his donkey. He also collaborated with his wife in the translation of the Irish playwright John Millington Synge’s Riders to the Sea (1920). His poetic output during his life was immense. Among his better-known works are Sonetos espirituales 1914–1916 (1916; “Spiritual Sonnets, 1914–15″), Piedra y cielo (1919; “Stones and Sky”), Poesía, en verso, 1917–1923 (1923), Poesía en prosa y verso (1932; “Poetry in Prose and Verse”), Voces de mi copla (1945; “Voices of My Song”), and Animal de fondo (1947; “Animal at Bottom”). A collection of 300 poems (1903–53) in English translation by Eloise Roach was published in 1962.

His literary influence on Puerto Rican writers is felt deeply in the works of island writers Giannina Braschi, Renee Marquez, and Manuel Ramos Otero.

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