José Manuel Poveda (1888-1926) is a contradictory figure in the Cuban literary canon. While he is praised for being the guardian of Cuban letters following the deaths of Julián del Casal and José Martí, Poveda is also censured for his pursuit of creative autonomy and his apparent detachment from immediate reality. For critics like Cintio Vitier, Poveda’s “cult to the self” is at odds with the formation of a Cuban national conscience, however what it meant to be Cuban was one of Poveda’s central concerns. Confronting the contradictions of the first Cuban Republic, Poveda is outspoken about the island’s colonial heritage and the threat of U.S. imperialism, often citing the need to construct a sovereign national personality. Reading Poveda’s Versos precursores (1917) in dialogue with his critical essays on Cuba’s political situation and Friedrich Nietzsche’s Also Sprach Zarathustra (1883-85), this article proposes that Poveda’s obsession with cultivating his artistic personality – one of the most recognized (and misunderstood) aspects of his poetics – is also an expression of his cubanía. Analyzing the recurrent theme of wandering as a metaphor for becoming, I argue that Poveda’s concept of the “I” is itinerant rather than transcendent, involving not only individual but national identity. In this way, Poveda’s nomadism also anticipates the migratory discourse of cubanía later developed by Fernando Ortiz, opening the way for a fresh reading of this neglected figure.