Literary Ultraism Beginnings, Characteristics and Representatives

Anthony Golden

The literary ultraism it was a Spanish and Hispanic American movement that developed after the First World War. It was characterized by proposing complicated innovations such as free verse, daring images and symbolism in defiance of traditional literary schemes..

The main objective of the ultraist movement was to express its opposition to modernism and the Generation of '98. The writers who adhered to this trend saw themselves as rupturist literati in relation to the schemes established by previous poetry..

Jorge Luis Borges

Ultraist writers were influenced by French Symbolists and Parnassians. His avant-garde productions defied objective analysis that gave readers the impression of cold intellectual experimentation..

Ultraism proposed an aesthetic change that was less ambitious than surrealism, but intended to extend to all areas of everyday life. This change proposed to abandon the opulence of modernism.

the beginning

It was launched in Madrid in 1919 by the poet Guillermo de la Torre and later attracted most of the Hispanic poets who had some recognition at the time..

The development of the movement took place in the gatherings of the Café Colonial de Madrid, chaired by Rafael Cansinos. Along with Guillermo de la Torre, other poets such as Juan Larrea, Gerardo Diego and the Argentine Jorge Luis Borges also participated..

In Latin America, ultraism was introduced precisely by Borges in 1921. In Argentina, modernism had a strong representation in the poet Leopoldo Lugones and it was against this literary style that ultraism developed in this country.

However, later on, Borges would be considered a deserter from ultraism, due to the publication of his work “Fervor de Buenos Aires. This due to its use of resources such as rhyme and the metric structure of the sonnet.

In this region, the movement attracted Chilean poets such as Pablo Neruda and Vicente Huidobro and Mexican poets such as Jaime Torres Bodet and Carlos Pellicer..

After the movement's demise, its nuances survived in Marxist poetry. Later on, his verbal techniques were revived by other avant-garde writers after WWII..


The most important element of ultraist poetry was metaphor. This trait was borrowed from the German Expressionists that Borges had read in Switzerland, where he lived with his family during World War I..

Another important feature was the rejection of conjunctions and adjectives that they considered useless. This led to the poems being constructed as a series of pure metaphors, one after the other..

The construction of these images did not refer exclusively to the creation of written metaphors. The ultraist poets were also interested in the graphic treatment of their verses in an attempt to merge poetry with the plastic arts.

For this reason it is said that ultraism "skeletonized" poetry, having reduced it to its purest and less ornate expression. Mordernist poetry was characterized by ornaments and adjectives, which is precisely what disappears in ultraism.

Ultraist poets strove to eliminate ornamental devices and with them bombastic verses, even eliminating rhyme and punctuation..

Likewise, they opposed confessional poetry, that is, the transmission of ideological or religious values ​​through it..

For this reason they avoided narratives, anecdotes or preaching. In general, they were oriented to pure poetry, which was contradictory to the possibility of transmitting a social message..

Borges expressed that this poetry was not committed to social problems, but to the poet's emotional experiences. Anguish, loneliness and pessimism, for example, are the emotions that characterize the work of this Argentine writer.

Ultraist poetry is usually seen as hermetic and cryptic, since it moves away from the observation of reality to enter the feeling of the poet.

His expressions were pure manifestations of sensation, which was surprising to an audience accustomed to modernist poetry..


Guillermo de la Torre

Guillermo de la Torre was born in Madrid in 1900 and died in Buenos Aires in 1971. He was a literary critic, essayist and poet recognized for his link with the avant-gardes of the early twentieth century and for being the founder and main promoter of ultraism.

In 1920 he published in the magazine Grecia the "Ultraist Vertical Manifesto", where he founded the movement and created the term "ultraism".

In this publication, he advocated a union of avant-garde trends in a single one that promoted pure poetry based on images and metaphors..

A few years later, in 1925, he devoted himself almost exclusively to literary criticism while the ultraists deviated towards creationism. For this reason, it is considered that the movement as such had a very short duration..

Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges was born in Buenos Aires in 1899 and died in Switzerland in 1986. He is considered one of the great figures of twentieth-century Hispanic literature..

His work crosses different genres, however, his greatest recognition is due to his short stories.

During the First World War, Borges, in the company of his family, toured different European countries until finally settling in Geneva.

In 1921 he finally returned to Argentina and founded the ultraist magazines Prismas and Proa, and later signed the first Argentine ultraist manifesto..

Borges was characterized by a very particular worldview and a unique way of approaching time, space, destiny and reality in his works..

These characteristics contrast with his formalism, a characteristic that was reflected in the precision with which he constructed his fictions..

Rafael Cansinos Assens

Rafael Cansinos Assens was born in Seville in November 1883 and died in July 1964 in Madrid. At the age of fifteen, after the death of his father, he moved to Madrid in the company of his family.

There he began to have contact with Modernism and to frequent political gatherings where he began his approach to letters..

He participated in modernist, ultraist and Dadaist magazines. He wrote literary criticisms and critical essays with great success, activities that gave him recognition within Spanish literature at the beginning of the century..


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