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Manuel Maples Arce, Untitled calligramme

As a reaction to the vast possibilities provided by newly emerging technological and scientific discoveries in the early twentieth century, Latin American avant-garde movements – like their European counterparts – began to explore new typographical forms. The idea was to find new ways in which poetry could mimic the structures characteristic of modern modes of reproduction like cinema and the phonograph. In this untitled calligramme by the most famous avant-garde Mexican poet, Manuel Maples Arce, we find a clear example of the ways in which poetry interacted with the emerging technologies. Published in Irradiador, the second magazine of Mexico’s most famous avant-garde movements, Stridentism, this poem reminds us of Marinetti’s futuristic calligrammes, and pinpoints the intersection between scientific language and artistic language. Playing with the idea of a magic potion, the poem is conceived as an advertisement for a secret cure, the estridentina, which is sold as a remedy against mental heaviness and spiritual myopia. Following Marinetti, who in his Futurist Manifesto had proposed the usage of mathematical language and musical symbols, the poem visually displays a world in which technology, science and mathematics now share a common ground within the sphere of communication. The historical violence and technological acceleration experienced at the beginning of the twentieth century had found a concrete form in the strident typography of avant-garde poetry.     

Text: Carlos Fonseca

Manuel Maples Arce
Untitled calligramme
In Revista Irradiador, no. 2 (1923)