We were helped along, not to say spurred along, by the poetry of Ernesto Cardenal.

Roberto Bolaño

Ernesto Cardenal

Ernesto Cardenal (1925–2020) was born in Nicaragua. He attended the University of Mexico and Columbia University and has been a political figure in Nicaragua since the 60s. Cardenal began writing in his student days and has written several volumes of poetry in Spanish and English. He is a Catholic priest and studied under Thomas Merton. From 1979 to 1988 he served as the Minister of Culture in Nicaragua. Among his awards are the Christopher Book Award, Premio de la Paz grant, and Orden Rubén Darío.

cover image of the book Pluriverse


Pluriverse: New and Selected Poems charts the life-work of the celebrated poet Ernesto Cardenal—“one of the world’s major poets” (Choice) and “the preeminent poet of Central America today” (Library Journal). Follow Cardenal’s poetic development across six decades, from the early exteriorismo poems and romantic epigrams of the early 1950s, to the increasingly spiritual and political verse he wrote as priest and activist (including his classic revolutionary documentary poem “Zero Hour”) to the shorter victory and ecology poems, and elegies to fallen Sandinistas, and on to the cosmic-mystical-scientific dimensions of his later work. “Here they are—" editor Jonathan Cohen writes in his Introduction, “to gladden your heart and enrich your soul.”

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cover image of the book Zero Hour And Other Documentary Poems

Zero Hour And Other Documentary Poems

Zero Hour and Other Documentary Poems brings together in English translation eight of the longer poems by Nicaragua’s impassioned Marxist priest, Ernesto Cardenal, described in the Times Literary Supplement as “the outstanding socially committed poet of his generation in Spanish America.” His work, like Pablo Neruda’s, is unabashedly political; like Ezra Pound’s, his poems demonstrate history on an epic scale––but the voice is all his own and speaks from the heart of a land sunk for generations in poverty, oppression, and turmoil. As both activist and contemplative, Cardenal maintained strong ties with the Sandinist guerillas while at the same time living a form of primitive Christianity at his religious settlement of Our Lady of Solentiname on an island in Lake Nicaragua. In late 1977, amid increasing civil violence, the Nicaraguan National Guard utterly destroyed the Solentiname community, and Cardenal fled to neighboring Costa Rica, where he continued his efforts on behalf of the revolutionary movement. With the final collapse of the Somoza dictatorship in 1979, he returned to Nicaragua as his country’s new Minister of Culture. Spanning a quarter century, the poems in Zero Hour constitute a vivid record of continuous struggle against flagrant exploitation and brutal indifference to common humanity.

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Apocalypse And Other Poems

Apocalypse and Other Poems by Nicaragua’s revolutionist poet-priest, Ernesto Cardenal, is the author’s second book, the first of poetry, to be published by New Directions. The editors of this volume, Robert Pring-Mill and Donald D. Walsh, have chosen a representative selection of Cardenal’s shorter protest poems, epigrams, religious, and Amerindian verse. Also included are two of Cardenal’s most impressive longer works: the haunting and melodic elegy, “Coplas on the Death of Merton,” and the title poem, “Apocalypse,” in which the theme of an ever-threatening nuclear holocaust is the core of a modern rendering of the Book of Revelations. At Our Lady of Solentiname, his religious community on an island in Lake Nicaragua, living and working in the manner of the early Christians, Father Cardenal embodies what he professes: “Now in Latin America, to practice religion is to make revolution.” An informative introduction has been contributed by Robert Pring-Mill of Oxford University. The translations are by Thomas Merton, Robert Pring-Mill, Kenneth Rexroth and Mireya Jaimes-Freyre, and Donald D. Walsh, who also translated In Cuba, Cardenal’s assessment of Fidel Castro’s revolutionary society, published by New Directions in 1974.

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In Cuba

The work of the Nicaraguan poet Ernesto Cardenal is widely read throughout Spanish America today. As a Catholic priest who is also a Marxist revolutionary, his sympathies and understanding span the polarities of popular sentiment, allowing him to view objectively what others, out of ignorance or self-interest, fear. In 1970, eleven years after Fidel Castro’s triumphant Revolution, Cardenal was invited to Havana by the House of the Americas, to sit on the poetry panel of its annual literary competition. Leaving Solentiname, his religious commune, he came to Cuba and remained for several months, keeping voluminous notes on all that he heard and saw. The result was In Cuba, a spontaneous, discursive, and not altogether uncritical account of life in a revolutionary society. Hovering over Cardenal’s whole view of Cuba is the mythic presence of Che Guevara, the martyred revolutionary, and that of the flesh-and-blood Fidel. Appropriately enough, the book culminates in a description of the Cuban premier’s four-hour speech on the 26th of July, and concludes with a private interview with Castro, held the following year. Translated for the first time into English by Donald D. Walsh, this edition includes a helpful glossary and chronology of recent Cuban history.

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We were helped along, not to say spurred along, by the poetry of Ernesto Cardenal.

Roberto Bolaño

Cardenal [is] a man who lives in limbo, which isn’t a bad way to live, next door to heaven.

Roberto Bolaño, Between Parentheses

Ernesto Cardenal is a major epic-historical poet, in the grand lineage of Central American prophet Rubén Darío.

Allen Ginsberg
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