Luis Cernuda was arguably the first Spanish poet to write openly about his homosexuality. A member of the Generation of ’27 – the most famous member of which was fellow gay poet Federico García Lorca – Cernuda originally studied law at the University of Madrid. There he met poet and professor Pedro Salinas, who became his mentor. Cernuda became part of the Madrid literary scene, befriending such people as Ortega y Gasset and getting his first book of poetry published. His former teacher got him a job lecturing at the University of Toulouse in 1928 when he was 26. It was the first of Cernuda’s positions outside of Spain and started him on a course of exile. Although he returned to Spain where he met his first love, actor Serafín Ferro, after the Spanish Civil War broke out he took a position at Cranleigh School in Surrey that he got through a friend. He stayed on in the U.K. for nine years, lecturing at Cambridge and the University of Glasgow. From there, he emigrated to the U.S., where he taught at Mt. Holyoke College, before moving eventually to Mexico, where he died in 1963.
Cernuda’s first poetry was surrealist in nature, but as he got older, his style became more influenced by English writing and his references to being gay became explicit. He wrote of love, exile and alientation. Although his work received mixed reviews at first, his reputation has grown and he is now considered one of the major poets of 20th century Spain.