The first significant Cuban poet is José Maria Heredia y Heredia (1803–39), who stands on the transition between neoclassicism and romance. He was also involved in Cuba’s liberation struggle. José Jacinto Milanés y Fuentes (1814–63) and Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda (1814–73) are completely romanticists, and wrote in most genres. Cirilo Villaverde is known for his portrayal of life Cecilia Valdés .
The dominant figure in Cuban spiritual life in the 19th century is the freedom fighter and author José Martí. Enrique José Varona (1849-1933) is known for his political and philosophical writings. Lyricist Julián del Casal (1863–93) is considered one of the forerunners of the Spanish-American “modernist” movement, while José Manuel Poveda (1888–1926) shows influence from the same movement. The realistic novel has its foremost representative in Jesús Castellanos (1879-1912).
Among the lyricists of the 20th century should be mentioned Mariano Brull, spokesman for “pure poetry”, and the interwar avant-garde poets Eugenio Florit and Nicolás Guillén. Foremost among Cuba’s poets after the Second World War stands, among other things. José Lezama Lima, also known for the novel Paradiso (1966), Cintio Vitier and Roberto Fernández Retamar.
Among poets who emerged after the revolution in 1959 include Fayad Jamís, Herberto Padilla and Nancy Morejón. Cuba’s foremost novelist of our time is Alejo Carpentier. We can also mention Guillermo Cabrera Infante, famous for the novel Tres sad tigers (1967), Edmundo Desnoes, Lisandro Otero, Severo Sarduy, Reinaldo Arenas, Carlos Alberto Montaner and Zoe Valdés.
The most famous Cuban play, the social and political drama Tembladera (1917), was written by José Antonio Ramos. In recent years, Cuban drama has undergone a renaissance, with names such as Virgilio Piñera, Antón Arrufat (Premio Nacional de Literatura, 2000) and José Triana, known for La noche de los asesinos (1966; Night of the Murderers, National Theater 1970).