Ecuadorian poet, historian, author, and diplomat Jorge Carrera Andrade

 

“The images of Jorge Carrera Andrade are so extraordinarily clear, so connected to the primitive I imagine I am…participating in a vision already lost to the world. It is a place melancholy but grand.”      — William Carlos Williams

 

 

Largely overlooked by American literary critics, Ecuadorian Jorge Carrera Andrade has long been considered one of the most important poets in Latin America. He began publishing poems in his teens, and his distinguished literary career spanned a wide range of work, from editing and translation to criticism and poetry, much of which was published internationally.

When Jorge Carrera Andrade was appointed Ecuadorian General Consul to the United States in 1940, he moved to San Francisco and quickly established friendships within the American literary community. He corresponded with a number of American writers including John Peale Bishop, Archibald MacLeish, Thomas Merton, Wallace Stevens, and William Carlos Williams.

Throughout his life, Andrade was a bridge between disparate worlds. As Steven Ford Brown details in Drunken Boat, during his childhood Andrade developed sympathetic relationships with the Indians who worked the land on his family’s country estate. His father’s views from the judicial bench — very liberal for this period in South America — were also sympathetic to the plight of the Indians. This empathy and impulse towards universal understanding would become an integral part of Andrade’s writing, as well as his work as ambassador to Japan, Peru, Nicaragua, the U.K., France, and other countries.

Jorge Carrera Andrade

Joshua Beckman and Alejandro de Acosta have recently translated Andrade’s Micrograms into English and republished the book as it appeared in the original 1940 edition. Micrograms is part essay, part poetry, and part anthology. It’s entirely unique and also oddly postmodern in its structure.

As Beckman and de Acosta write in their introduction, for Andrade “the international was less about crossing boundaries and more about disregarding them in the name of the universal.”

[Andrade] writes, ‘I try to testify to an ordinary man’s orbit in time. At first he feels as a stranger in the midst of a changing world but later receives the visit of love and discovers deep within himself a feeling of solidarity with all men of the planet. In this sense I have traversed new countries in different latitudes and have returned to others already known, in a pilgrimage as passionate observer rather than as curious traveler.'”

It is from this ‘worldly’ perspective and influence that Andrade’s writing emerged, and maybe the most fascinating of these works is his Micrograms.

What exactly is a microgram? Here is Beckman and de Acosta…

“The microgram is a poem usually between three to six lines long and about little natural creatures (both flora and fauna) and their existence in the universe…While formally unique, it presents its newness with the gentleness and grace of a conversation on a shared idea. Using the most subjective of personal histories (few were as international)… [Andrade] sees and calls for an obje