«Canción» (lit. «Song»), often known as «De qué callada manera» (approximately, «How calm is the way») is a poem by Cuban writer, journalist and activist Nicolás Guillén, National Poet of Cuba (The New York Times Archives 1989).

¡De qué callada manera
se me adentra usted sonriendo,
como si fuera la primavera!
¡Yo muriendo!

«De qué callada manera» is one of his best known poems, mostly because it has been adapted to song and subsequently covered by many artists. Indeed, most people1 associate these lyrics with one of several musical groups, singers or songwriters, but few know its humbler origins as part of «La Rueda Dentada» (Guillén 2017, 47, 1979).

Strangely enough, the musical adaptation better conveys the mood and feelings intended by the author. First and foremost, because the title itself lends itself to think of the poem as music; and not just any music. Adapting this poem as a Son (Son cubano) also adds a nonverbal layer to Cuba’s origins and history of colonialism, slavery and mestizaje (Urrutia 2006). The arrangement itself points at the humor inherent to Guillén (Barchino 2015) and, by extension, to the Latin American peoples.

This poem, when sung by his fellow cuban singer-songwriter Pablo Milanés is the perfect description of what Guillén himself said of his work (Zamudio 2005) :

I also use my Poems-sones to lay claim on that which is left2, so that they are truly ours, bringing them to the light and using them as a poetic element of Strength.

Too much meaning packed in 21 stanzas! And certainly too much to be discussed under 300 words.

On Exactitude in ScienceAndy’s Brevity Quest 2019 (293) → Goldfish


Barchino, Matías. 2015. “La Risa de Guillén.” Edited by Centro Virtual Cervantes/Instituto Cervantes. Centro Virtual Cervantes, September. https://cvc.cervantes.es/literatura/escritores/guillen/acerca/acerca_07.htm.

Guillén, Nicolás. 1979. La Rueda Dentada. Editorial Letras Cubanas. https://books.google.com.mx/books?id=l84tAAAAIAAJ.

———. 2017. De Qué Callada Manera. Editorial Verbum. https://books.google.com.mx/books?id=YdjKDgAAQBAJ.

The New York Times Archives. 1989. “Nicolas Guillen, 87, National Poet of Cuba.” Edited by The New York Times. The New York Times, July, 00019. https://www.nytimes.com/1989/07/18/obituaries/nicolas-guillen-87-national-poet-of-cuba.html.

Urrutia, María Eugenia. 2006. “Nicolás Guillén: Poesía En Ritmo de Son.” Alpha (Osorno), no. 22 (July). https://doi.org/10.4067/s0718-22012006000100014.

Zamudio, Luz Elena. 2005. “Expresiones de Nicolás Guillén.” Edited by UNAM. Coordinación de Difusión Cultural. Los Universitarios S/V (24): 14–17. http://www.ejournal.unam.mx/uni/024/uni02404.pdf.

  1. That I know

  2. Talking, in general, about the voice, language and culture of his people—A.

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