August 9, 2011

Antonio Gamoneda

Antonio Gamoneda [Spain]

Born on May 30, 1931 in Oviedo, Asturias, Spain, Antonio Gamoneda's father was a modernist poet who had published only one book Otra más alta vida (1919). By the time Antonio was four, his father had died and he and his mother moved to the working-class district of León. The Spanish Civil War created difficult times for them, and the horror and misery of those years is reflected in Gamoneda's dark poetry. The schools were closed, and the young boy taught himself to read by reading his own father's book.

Gamoneda was sent to a Augustinian Fathers religious school in 1941, dropping out two years later. At the early age of 14 he began work as a messenger in the Banco de Comercio, continuing his self-education, remaining at the back as an employee for twenty-four years.

It was at the bank that Gamoneda grew more and more in opposition to Franco's dictatorship, publishing his first book of poems, Sublevación inmóvil (Motionless revolt) in 1960. The book, breaking with the traditions of Spanish poetry of the time, was a runner-up for the Adonais prize.

In 1969 Gamoneda was appointed to head the cultural services of the Diputación Provincial de León, and the next hear became the head of the León State collection of poetry, where he attempted to promote progressive culture under Franco's harsh strictures. Consequently, Gamoneda was deprived of official status until readmitted by court order. During these years, absent from the poetry world, the writer worked for various cultural magazines.

With the death of Franco and the period of Spanish culture described as the transición, Gamoneda began writing again, expressing the crisises he had experienced. Descripción de la mentira (A Description of the Lie) was followed by several books before he produced some of his major works, including Lápidas (Tombstones) of 1987, Edad (Age) of 1987, Libro del Frio (Book of the Cold) (1992), and Arden las pédidas (Losses are Burning) (2003).

In 2006 Gamoneda was awarded the Reina Sofia Awaard and the Cervantes Prize, the highest award in Spanish literature.

The poet has written numerous collections of essays, and his poetry has been translated widely.


Sublevación inmóvil (Madrid: Rialp, 1960); Descripción de la mentira (León, Spain: Diputación Provincial, col. County, 1977; reprinted in Salamanca: Castile and Leon, col. Barrio de Maravillas, 1986; and Madrid: Abada Editores, 2003); León de la mirada (León, Spain: Espadaña, 1979); Tauromaquia y destino [with drawings by Juan Barjola] (León, Spain: Retablo, 1980); Blues castellano (Gijón Noega, 1982), reprinted Barcelona: Plaza y Janes, 1999, and Madrid: Bartleby, 2007); Lápidas (Madrid: Trieste, 1986); Edad (Madrid: Chair, 198); Libro del frio (Madrid: Siruela, 1992); Mortal 1936 (Merida: Asamblea de Extremadura, 1994); El vigilante de la nieve (Lanzorote, Spain: Fundación César Manrique, 1995); Libro de los venenos: corrupción y fábula del Libro Sexto de Pedacio Dioscóides y Andrés de Laguna, acerca de los venenos mortiferos y de las fieras que arrojan de si ponzoña (Madrid: Ediciones Siruela, 1995); Arden las pédidas (Barcelona: Tusquets, 2003); Cecilia (Lanzarote, Spain: Fundación César Manrique, 2004); Reescritura (Madrid: Abada, 2004); Esta luz 1947-2004 (Barcelona: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores, 2004); Extravío en la luz (Madrid: Casariego, 2009)


Gravestones, trans. by Donald Wellman (New Orleans: University of New Orleans Press, 2009)

from Lápidas

THERE'S no wellbeing, there's no rest. The dark animal arrives in the midst of winds and there is a pile of men marked with the numbers of misfortune. There is no wellbeing, there is no rest. A black roaring grows and you weave the saddest fibers (under an incessant sun, in a bowl of lament, in the mauve root of augury) and sleepless mothers, those who inhabit cells of lightning, pass their gaze over a forest of stones.

Do birds so groan? All is blood soaked. Deaf at the source of the music, ought I to insist anymore? There is vigilance in the gardens placed between my spirit and the precision of the spies. There is watching in the churches.

Beware of calcination and incest; I say, beware of your very self, Spain.

(Song of the Spies)

—Translated from the Spanish by Donald Wellman

English language translation copyright ©2009. Reprinted from Gravestones (New Orleans: University of New Orleans Press, 2009)

For wide selection of Gamoneda's poetry in English, click here:

For an interview with Gamoneda, click below:

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