Biography of Joseph Sickman Corsen (1853-1911)

Poet, musician and local journalist, born in the West Indian island of Curaçao (belonging to the Netherlands) December 13, 1853, and died in his place of origin in 1911. Author of an interesting poetic production which shows the influence of the Dutch and Spanish romantics, is regarded as the first important poet who used, in some of his lyrical compositions, Papiamentu, the Creole language of the Windward Netherlands Antilles (consisting of the islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, or "ABC Islands"). Corsen, who also wrote poems in Spanish, he/she was also well known and celebrated in its time by the numerous musical pieces he/she composed, many of which went to the popular heritage of his people and have come from generation to generation, to the present day.

His dedication to music goes back to his early childhood, where he/she learned to play the piano with such use and precocity, which already gave recitals as a virtuoso in the management of this instrument at the age of thirteen. In adulthood, was, as well as pianist and composer, organist, conductor and Professor of music, activity - the latter - that sustenance is won during a good part of his life (although, since he/she lived in a place and a time in which not were students of solfeggio and piano, had to strengthen their classes with lessons in math and Spanish language and literature).

Apparently - following the conclusions of A. M. G. Rutten, the musical corsen - modern compiler, the local composer he/she was author of more than one hundred pieces, including dances, polkas, mazurkas and waltzes typical of his native island, although many of these compositions have been lost today (or have been integrated in such a way in the popular Songbook of Curacaothat they pass through anonymous, unless you can assert that Corsen composed them).

Aside from this direct contribution to the musical wealth of its land, Joseph Sickman Corsen also contributed to the dissemination of popular culture through the notes and letters, magazine of which he/she was co-founder and co-editor. For many years, Corsen published in this prestigious publication, dedicated to both music and literature written in Spanish, some of his compositions, musical and poetic, as well as numerous texts by authors from across Latin America. And, in fair reciprocity, his poems appeared printed in some of the most important literary magazines in Venezuela, Mexico and Peru.

In this his facet of writer, Corsen accused since the beginning of his career, as already noted above, the direct influence of some European romantics, mainly natives of the two areas of maximum influence on the island: the Netherlands and Spain. The Dutch, which more footprint left in his compositions was Rhijnvis Feith, while Ramón de Campoamor was the Spanish poet who most influenced his verses. Taking into account that both writers are characterized by their pronounced tendency to the sentimentality, it is not surprising that en la poesía de Corsen they dominate the sentimental notes, deep emotional purity.

However, this sentimental tone does not limit, in any way, wide thematic range which handles Corsen in his lyrical work. Indeed, both his poems written in Spanish and Papiamentu compositions cover a broad spectrum of content and conceptual records, ranging from the usual concerns of Curaçao bourgeois class (to which belonged to the poet), to the prosaic description of places and local customs, without forgetting the purely contemplative arguments nor the educational content.

Particularly famous is, within poetic production corsen written in papiamento, his poem entitled "Marduga" ("Twilight"), which printed appeared for the first time in the pages of the weekly La Cruz on September 27, 1905. This composition - which, to fuer of memorized and repeated by all the local school-age, it has become the cultural heritage of the island and has granted to Corsen the honorable title of "father (or founder) of the literature in papiamento"-, is an extensive and heartfelt inquiry about doubts and universal fears raised human beings at any time and placeexpressed in voices that, in pure simplicity, purity and precision, can better collect the feeling of anguish of man before all the uncertainties that surround him. All this can be seen easily in fragment "Mainta" that is copied, then that will serve in addition so that English-speaking readers check their competence in understanding, even in writing, the Creole language which the poet of Curacao raised to the dignity of literary expression vehicle: "Ta pakiko my not sa: / Ma this tristu my ta bira / Tur mainta ku my sight / only Bahá den lama!" Talbe ta a presintimentu. / Or ta a kisas memory; / Podise n´ta nothing more / Ku cos di temperamentu. P'adilanti podise / Mi ta watch na woman / a doló ku n' born ainda, / Ma ku the my learn? Tin kisas den my memory / a doló masja scondi / Masja bieu, ku mi sinti / not by rebiba his istoria? "."

The poems of Joseph Sickman Corsen, scattered in different Rotary and magazines, were collected in a posthumous volume that appeared under the generic title of poems by Benjamin A. Jesurun (Nijmegen [Netherlands]: Kloosterman, 1914). On the other hand, was - as he/she has already been scored above - A. M. G. Rutten who edited his musical compositions, in a production titled Leven in muziekwerken van de dichter-musicus j. S. Corsen (Assen [Netherlands]: Van Gorcum, 1983).


TERLINGEN, Spanish in the Netherlands Antilles J. language and literature. Curacao: Ministry of Cultural Affairs of the Netherlands Antilles, 1962.

J. R. Fernández Cano