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Colombia's rebel poets: from 'verbal terrorists' to favoured sons

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The Nadaistas, an iconoclastic group of young poets in Medellín, once sparked outrage but now their influence is felt from the metro to the corridors of power

In a small plaza in Medellín, the teenage poets threw the canon of Colombian literature on the bonfire. Their leader, a thin 27-year-old named Gonzalo Arango, stepped forward to read out the group’s manifesto. It was written on a roll of toilet paper.

It was 1958 and the nadaístas – Colombia’s equivalent of the beatniks – were on the verge of notoriety both for their iconoclastic verse and the bohemian lifestyles that antagonised prudish Medellín society. “The Nadaistas invaded the city like a plague,” opens Arango’s most famous poem of the time.

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