September 12, 2014

Antonio Gamoneda

Antonio Gamoneda [Spain]

 Born in Oviedo, Spain on May 30, 1931, Antonio Gamoneda was born the son of a modernist poet whose career ended in early death, the father publishing only one book of poetry, Otra más alta vida (Another higher life) in 1919. After his father’s death, Gamoneda moved with his mother to León.

    During the Spanish Civil War, a period when the schools were closed, Antonio learned to read, legend has it, through reading and rereading his father’s poems.

     In 1941, the young Gamoneda joined the religious school of the Augustinian Fathers, but dropped out in 1943. At the age of 14 he began working as a messenger in the Banco de Comercio, completing his pre-university studies by himself, and remaining as an employee of the bacnk for 24 years until 1969.

     While working at the bank, furthermore, Gamoneda became part of the intellectual resistance of the Franco dictatorship.

     Gamoenda’s first book of poetry, Sublevación inmóvil, published in 1960. The book was a runner-up for the noted Adonais Prize.

     Leaving his bank job, the young poet became the head of cultural services of the Diputación Provincial de León, promoting a progressive and experimental culture through the money provided by dictatorship. During these years he also began writing for several different cultural journals.

     The poet did not publish another work of poetry until the death of Franco, who died in 1975. In 1977, Gamoneda published a long poem, Descripción de la mentira (A description of the lie). In 1987 he published another volume, Lápidas (Tombstones), and, the same year, Edad (Age), which won the National Prize for Literature in Spain.

      With the publication he 1992 of his Libro del friío (Book of the cold), Gamoneda became one of the post noted of Spanish poets. The book was published in a larger edition in 2000 as Frío de limites (Cold of Limits), as a collaboration with Antoni Tàpies.

      In 2003 he published Arden las pédidas (Burning Losses) and in 2004, he published an anthology of collected poems from 1947-2004, Esta luz (This light). The following year he was awarded the European Prize for Literature, followed in 2006 by the Reina Sofa Award and the most esteemed prize in Spain, the Cervantes Prize.  

      Gamoneda is Doctor Honoris Causa of the University of León

      A documentary, drected by Enrique and Cesar Rendueles Corti and scripted by Amalia Iglesias and Julia Piera, appeared in March of 2009, Antonio Gamoneda: Escritura y alquimia.


Sublevación inmóvil (Madrid: Rialp, 1960); Descripción de la menira (León: Diputación Provincial, 1977; Salamanca: Barrio de Maravillas, 1986; Madrid: Abada Editores, 2003); León de la mirada (León: Espadaña, 1979; León: Diputación, 1990); Tauromaquia y destino [with drawings by Juan Barjola] (León: Retablo, 1980); Blues castellano (1961–1966) (Gijón Noega, 1982; Barcelona: Plaza y Janes, 1999; Madrid: Bartleby, 2007); Lápidas (Madrid: Trieste, 1986; Madrid: Abada, 2006); Edad 1947–1986 (Madrid: Chair, 1987); Libro del frío (Madrid: Siruela 1992; Valencia: Germany 2000; Madrid: Siruela, 2003, 2006); Mortal 1936 (Mérida: Asamblea de Extremadura, 1994); El vigilante de la nieve (Lanzarote: Fundación César Manrique, 1995); Libro de los venenos: corrupción y fábula del Libro Sexto de Pedacio Dioscórides y Andrés de Laguna, acerca de los venenos mortíferos y de las fieras que arrojan de sí ponzoña (Madrid: Siruela, 1995, 1997, 2006); Arden las pérdidas (Barcelona: Tusquets, 2003, 2004); Cecilia (Lanzarote: Fundación César Manrique, 2004); Reescritura (Madrid: Abada, 2004); Esta luz (1947-2004) (Barcelona, Galaxia Gutenberg / Círculo de Lectores, 2004); Extravío en la luz [with engravings by Juan Carlos Mestre] (Madrid: Casariego, 2009)


Gravestones (Donald Wellman, trans.) (New Orleans: University of New Orleans Press, 2009); Description of the Lie (Greenfield, Massachusetts: Talisman House Publishers, 2014); selections in Panic Cure: Poetry from Spain for the 21st Century (Forest Gander, trans.) Los Angeles: Otis Books/Seismicity Editions, 2014).

Impure Pavane

Your hair in his hands; burning in the vigilante’s hands of snow.
It’s barley grain, the nap of snakes and your hair in the past.
Open your eyes that I might see the white barley: your head in
    the vigilante’s hands of snow.

The trees have all been moaning in my mind in remembrance
   of your panties in the darkness, the light under your skin,
   your living petals.
Crossing anniversaries, now and again, intoxicated pigeons fly
Come bare your mercy, ah mortal dove, daughter of the field.

The blackbird in the glow of your lips has blown out.
I can sense in you your impressive wounds, you bare yourself
    in my fountains.
The blackbird blows out in white bedrooms where I go blind,
    where, now and again, extravagant bells ring.

Feeling for your unconfessable skin, your skin anointed with
    the sadness of snakes; I can make out your invisible worries,
    your heart’s cold trail.
I would have noticed your bloody sash, your weeping between
   window panes, and not the yellow of your wound,

but my dream lives under your eyelids.

Though oblivion is hollow as a mask, a livid apparition, you
   hear the wailing of mothers from the water and you pet those
   eyes that glimpsed oblivion.

Our bodies comprehend themselves with more and more
    sadness, but I love this desolate purple.
Ah the black flower of bedrooms, ah the pills of dawn.

Enter the white bedroom once more.
Impressive, the jars of sadness in moral hands.
Enter the white bedroom once more.

Love, that you last on my lips:

There’s a forlorn honey in the helixes and shadows of 
   impressive women and in summer’s agony it sinks like
   mercury into the heart’s blue gash.

Love, that you might last: cry between my thighs,

Eat the forlorn honey.

         Translated from the Spanish by Forest Gander

(from Libro del friío, 1992)

English language copyright ©2014 by Forest Gander. Reprinted by permission of Otis Books/Seismicity Editions.  

For a large selection of Gamoneda’s poems in English, go here:

For other poems by Gamoneda, click here:



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