Costa Rican poetry has usually followed the same literary movement that the prose is experimenting at the time. This parallelism in artistic movements is also the case with different art forms, such as painting and theatre. Even though poetry has been written in the country since colonial times, most experts would agree that its "birth" occurred in the 1890's, as it did with prose. In 1890 La lira costarricense was published, and it was a poetic anthology that included authors like the following: Jose Maria Alfaro, Juan Diego Braun, Jenaro Cardona, Aquileo Echeverria, Carlos Gagini and Rafael Machado. Some of these poets also wrote several short stories, novels and essays. The poems by these authors conserve some Romantic aspects and they also tend to be nationalistic and even political.
Isaac Felipe Azofeifa
The Concherias by Aquileo Echeverria celebrate Costa Rican folklore and the bucolic way of life of the peasant. Echeverria utilizes humour and "rural" language in this lengthy work. A lot of authors of stories and novels also used these devices during the late nineteenth century. However, in the early twentieth century, "Costumbrismo" or this regional style gave way to Modernism, a European and mostly French literary influence. The poet is no longer somebody who discusses the external reality he or she turns to internal and alternate realities. The poet Brenes Mesen writes "El ave rara" or "The Strange Bird" in which he confesses that he feels like a strange bird who is alienated by wild, dumb birds that persecute him.
Modernist poetry was propelled by the establishment of the artistic magazine called Repertorio Americano (1919). Some authors that participated with their creations were: Rafael Angel Troyo, Lisimaco Chavarria and Auristela Castro de Jimenez. These authors explore concepts such as spiritualism and mysticism through lavish language and imagery. Castles, fairies and Parisian settings are common poetic themes of the Modernist tendency. Authors that followed this movement were criticized for ignoring their surroundings and for trading them for fantastic and luxurious settings.
Every action causes a reaction, and this is also the case for literary movements. Cosmopolitan themes and styles were soon replaced by Costa Rican provincial themes and language. However, poets and their works of the period ranging from 1920-1940, also explored intimate feelings such as melancholy and a preoccupation with the ephemeral quality of life. Isaac Felipe Azofeifa, one of the greatest and most productive poets, explored diverse styles which included erotic, existential and socially-conscientious writings. Thus, even though some poets of this time chose to return to the known path of regional themes, some picked the "road less travelled" and investigated existentialist and more obscure regions.
The existentialist tendency enabled the birth of Costa Rican Vanguardism. The 1940's and 1950's were extremely rich in literary production, and some of the poets that contributed immensely to the artistic creation of the time were: Eunice Odio, Salvador Jimenez Canossa and Eduardo Jenkins Dobles. These authors chose to explore the subconscious, psychological and unknown dimensions, and they did so through revolutionary language and techniques.
The 1960's saw the birth of important authors such as Jorde Debravo, Laureano Alban and Alfonso Chase. Again, there was a return to the outer reality, but instead of only criticizing the social condition, the poets of this generation also offered hope and a belief in the possibility of change. Erotic poetry, which had been present in Costa Rica since the beginnings of serious literary creation, blossomed during the 1960's. The figure of the loved one was interestingly intertwined with that of nature, thus announcing that erotism and sex were natural and glorifying them.
There are several contemporary authors that are writing interesting pieces that have won national as well as international recognition. However, it's too early to be able to describe their work, since analysis often requires distancing in time and place. Contemporary poetry and literature in general promises a lot, since in recent years there have been an abundance of serious authors that pursue these arts.