José Juan Tablada: Biography, Style, Works, Phrases

José Juan Tablada Acuña (1871-1945) was a Mexican writer, poet, journalist, and diplomat. His lyrical work gave way to modern poetry in Mexico. He also incorporated the development of haiku, or Japanese verses, into Latin American literature, a considerably innovative contribution.

Tablada’s work encompassed several literary genres, including: essays, narrative, and poetry. She also stood out for the creation of calligrams, that is, the formation of images or drawings through words. One of his most outstanding poetic works was: Li-Po and other poems.

Tablada also devoted himself to the study of art, especially what was related to the pre-Columbian, the Spanish-American and the contemporary. Ultimately, her life passed between literature, journalism and diplomacy. There were several positions that she held in the service of her country abroad.


Birth and family

José Juan was born in Coyoacán, Mexico, on April 3, 1871, into a cultured, middle-class family. Information on his personal life is scarce: there is no information on the names of his parents, siblings or other relatives.

Tablada Education

José Juan Tablada studied his first years of studies in his native land. His school training took place at the Heroico Colegio Militar, located in the vicinity of the Chapultepec Castle. Later he entered the National Preparatory School to continue his studies.

First jobs as a writer

Tablada was attracted to writing from a young age, so he did not hesitate to take his first steps in the world of letters when the opportunity presented itself. In 1890, at the age of nineteen, he began to write for the Sunday section Faces and masks of the newspaper El Universal.

Road to recognition

In 1894, four years after starting at the newspaper El Universal, he published Ónix. The poem appeared in the pages of the Blue Magazine, with it began to gain recognition and fame. At that time he demonstrated his alignment with the modernist current; He also wrote in magazines such as El Maestro and La Falange.

Tablada and the Modern Magazine

Tablada’s taste and passion for literature and culture were always on the surface. In 1898, already framed in modernism, it gave rise to the birth of the Modern Magazine, in which he translated several authors, especially French, and published some stories of his authorship.

First collection of poems

His performance opened the doors to other media, such as: Excelsior, El Mundo Ilustrado and Revista de Magazines. In 1899 he published his first collection of poems: El florilegio . At that time, taking advantage of the boom in his letters, he also wrote for several international newspapers, both in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the United States.

Diplomatic beginnings

Politics was of interest to José Juan Tablada, so at the beginning of the 20th century, he began his diplomatic career. He was the representative of Mexico in countries such as the United States, Colombia, Ecuador, France and Japan. From the latter country he treasured an interest in literary aesthetics, especially in haiku poems.

Tablada during the Revolution

Tablada’s political experience kept him active during the Mexican Revolution in 1910. He expressed his oppositional criticism of the government of Francisco Madero, and after his departure in 1913, he did not hesitate to support Victoriano Huerta. This determined stance gave him the advantage of directing the Official Gazette.

Soon, in 1914, Huerta was overthrown, so he was besieged by the troops of Emiliano Zapata. He had no choice but to go to the United States, specifically to New York. Then he returned, joined Venustiano Carranza, and resumed his diplomatic career as ambassador in Caracas.

Literature over the diplomatic career

After having served as ambassador to Venezuela, José Juan Tablada was entrusted to Ecuador in 1920. However, soon after, he made the decision to resign, because the altitude of Quito, the capital, did not suit him well. After his retirement from office, he returned to his country, and then went to New York.

Literature always played an important role in Tablada’s life, and perhaps that is why he also left the diplomatic service. Installed in the “Big Apple”, he created the Latino Library. In 1922, and for a year, he returned to Mexico, there he received the appointment of “representative poet of youth.”

Production in New York

The time that Tablada lived in New York was largely dedicated to expanding his literary production. At that time, he published works such as: Intersections, in 1924; and The Fair: Mexican Poems, in 1928. In that last year he was appointed a member of the Mexican Academy of Language.

Last years and death

In 1935 José Juan Tablada returned to Mexico, settled in the city of Cuernavaca, and six years later he became a corresponding member of the Mexican Academy of Language, an institution in which he held chair VII. In 1945 he was appointed vice consul in New York.

Unfortunately he could not complete his diplomatic mission, because he died on August 2, 1945, in New York. His remains were transferred to Mexico, thanks to the procedures of the Language Academy. They currently rest in the Rotunda of Illustrious Persons.


José Juan Tablada’s literary style was framed within modernism, and also within the aesthetics of orientalism, after the incursion he made in Latin America of the Japanese poem haiku. He was a constantly innovating writer of literature.

The language used by the writer was characterized by being clear, well elaborated and structured. In addition, it gave it a sarcastic tone and other so many times sublime. His poetry did not enjoy great expressiveness, so his poems were brief. Haiku was his favorite style for that characteristic.


Tablada, as mentioned in previous sections, was the one who introduced the Japanese poems known as haikus to Spanish literature. The precision and brevity of this poetic form were adjusted to the concise and not very expressive characteristic of the Mexican author.

A haiku is structured in three white verses, that is, not subject to rhyme, but with meter. In this way they are made up of five, seven and five syllables, respectively. His first taste for this Japanese tradition was demonstrated in 1904, with an expanded edition of The Florilegio.


Regarding the themes developed by Tablada in his works, especially poetry, they were nature, animals or plants, as well as the landscape characteristics of his native Mexico. In others, such as essays, she referred to the history of her country.

A visual style

Tablada was a writer who renewed literature, especially poetry. Thus, he was in charge of giving his works a different vision. It was in this way that he developed the calligrams: with them he formed images that gave another dimension to his poems, as well as to his avant-garde talent.



– The florilegio (1899).

– The national epic. Porfirio Díaz (1909).

– Hiroshigué: the painting of snow, rain, night and the moon (1914).

– In the sun and under the moon (1918).

– One day … Synthetic Poems (1919).

– Li-Po and other poems (1920).

– Retable of memory of Ramón López Velarde (1921).

– The jug of flowers (1922).

– Intersections (1924).

– The fair: Mexican poems (1928).

– From humor to laughter (1944).

– Three books: One day… Synthetic poems, Li-Po and other poems and The jug of flowers (Posthumous edition, 2000).

Brief description of some of his works

One day … Synthetic Poems (1919)

With this work the Mexican writer tried to elevate his poetry, to transcend towards the purity of things. The development of this work began with his visit to Japan, and for many years it achieved its condensation. The poems were characterized by being contemplative of his favorite subject: nature.

At the time of its publication, 200 copies were made on verge paper, which were stamped with the writer’s initials. It was structured with a prologue and an epilogue; the introduction by four sections, which contained a number of verses.

Some of the poems were:

– “The birdhouse”.

– “The bees”.

– “The bamboo”.

– “The ants”.

– “Night butterfly”.

– “Moon”.

– “The Cisne”.

– “The spider”.

– “The bumblebee”.

– “The geese”.

– “The peacock”.

– “The Nightingale”.

– “El cocuyo”.

Fragment of “The bees”

“Endlessly drips

honey the apiary;

each drop is a bee … “

Fragment of “The Geese”

“For nothing the geese

they sound alarm

in their trumpets of clay ”.

Fragment of “The Peacock”

“Peacock, long glow

by the democratic chicken coop

you pass like a procession… ”.

Fragment of “The ants”

“Brief wedding procession,

the ants drag

orange blossom petals ”.

Li-Po and other poems (1920)

This work was based on Tablada’s affinity for the oriental, as well as being an expression of his modernist tendency. The book dealt with the death of the Chinese poet Li-Po, who lived between 701 and 762, and whose life came to an end when he fell into the water, after wanting to catch the Moon that was reflected in it.

The particularity of this writing lay in the way in which the author conjugated the words with the drawings. Therefore, the calligrams were present in it. Besides that, there was symmetry in the verses, and above all the intention of enlivening the real through a clean and careful aesthetic.


“Li-Po, one of the seven sages in wine

it was a glittering gold brocade …

like a cup of sonorous jade.

His childhood was made of porcelain

his crazy youth

a murmuring bamboo grove

full of claws and mysteries.

Faces of women in the lagoon,

enchanted nightingales

by the Moon in the cages of the psalteries ”.

The jug of flowers (1922)

With this poetic work, José Juan Tablada again developed haiku. At the beginning of each section he demonstrated his avant-garde and innovative capacity. Ingenuity and creativity were present, although on a lyrical level it was not as accomplished as his previous works.


“Please the dragonfly

for lighting his transparent cross

on the bare and trembling branch …

Together in the quiet afternoon

Angelus notes fly

bats and swallows.

The little monkey looks at me …

I would like to tell me

something you forget!

Of summer, red and cold



of watermelon! ”.

Fragment of The Fair: Mexican Poems (1928)

“Jaikais from the fair


Aviators bees up;

below, the anthill:

infantry barracks.


Atrium in the warm village

flying chapulin:

fan and rattle.


Guess my theosophy

the snake that sunbathes

and does not run away and trust me …?


To the sparrow that flutters in a daze

they fake a bush

the antlers of the deer… “.

Fragment of The Florilegio (1899)

“Sonnet Watteau”

“Manón, the erbúrne forehead

the one with powdered hair

and crisp clothing,

Your eyes have captivated me!

(…) Come! The love that flutters

throws his golden arrow

and in the sea that waves blue

the bunting arises

flowery galley

Which leads to Cytherea! “


– The social defense: history of the campaign of the Division of the North (1913).

– History of the art of Mexico (1927).

Edible Mexican mushrooms. Economic Mycology (Posthumous Edition, 1983).


– Shooting at the target: political news (1909).

– The days and nights of Paris (1918).

– In the country of the sun (1919).

– The resurrection of the idols: American novel (1924).

– El ark de Noé: readings on animals, for primary school children by Juan José Tablada and other world famous authors (1926).


– Madero-Chantecler. Rigorously current political zoological tragicomedy, in three acts and in verse (1910).


– “Women who pass by Fifth Avenue so close to my eyes, so far from my life!”

– “I search in vain in the irremediable farewell letter, the trace of a tear …”.

– “Under the celestial vapor the song of the nightingale raves for the only star.”

– “In a sea of ​​emerald, a motionless ship with your name as an anchor.”

– “Devil’s horse: glass nail with talcum wings”.

– “Chunks of mud, the toads swim along the dim path.”

– “For nothing do the geese sound an alarm on their clay trumpets.”

– “Return to the bare branch, nocturnal butterfly, the dry leaves of your wings.”

– “The clouds of the Andes go fast, from mountain to mountain, on the wings of the condors.”

– “The dragonfly persists to undertake its transparent cross on the bare and tremulous branch …”.


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  3. Muñoz, A. (2018). José Juan Tablada. Mexico: Encyclopedia of Literature in Mexico. Recovered from:
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  5. Phrases by José Juan Tablada. (S. f.). Argentina: Phrases and Thoughts. Recovered from:

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