May 24, 2015

Angel González

Angel González [Spain]

Born in 1925 in Oviedo, Spain, Angel González lived his early youth in northern Spain. His father died two years after his birth, and he was brought up by his mother in the period of the Spanish Civil War. One brother was killed during the conflict, and another was left home to fight on the side of the Republicans. Both his mother and sister lost their jobs, and the family lived in extreme poverty.
    In his early years González displayed a great interest in music, and might have gone on to study it if were not for their poverty. He was, however, able to attend the University of Oviedo, where he studied law, graduating in 1948. During this same period he had begun to write poetry, particularly during a period when he contracted tuberculosis and was sent to a small town in the mountains of Léon. Thereafter, he took a job as music critic for the periodical La voz de Asturias in Oviedo. In 1951 he traveled to Madrid to take a course at the Official School of Journalism. But with the extreme propaganda of the time, he decided to abandon journalism and entered a into government service in the Ministry of Public Works, first in Seville and later in Madrid, a job he was to retain until the early 1970s.
    In Madrid, González became a regular in the informal meetings of writers and other intellectuals at the Café Pelayo and in Barcelona. It was there he became acquainted with other Spanish poets, such as Jaime Gil de Biedma, Gabriel Celaya, Vicente Aleixandre, Carlos Barral, and Juan García Hortelano. Although he, himself, had largely abandoned his early poetic efforts, Aleixandre and others encouraged him to continue writing.
    In 1956 he published Aspero mundo, which contained poems mostly written before his move to Madrid. It was nominated for one of the major literary prizes (the Adonáis Prize), and the response to the book further encouraged him to continue writing. A trip to France, Italy, Scandinavia, West Germany, and Czechoslovakia in 1957, further provided González with new sources and literary contacts. In 1961 he published his second book, Sin esperanza, con convencimiento (Without Hope, but with Conviction). His third volume, even more social in its message, was Grado elemental (Elementary Grade) (1962), a book which assured González's place as one of the major figures of the "Generation of 1950."
     During the early 1970s González traveled to the Universidad Nacional Autóonoma de México, and from there accepted a position of visiting professor at the University of New Mexico in the United States. White teaching he New Mexico, he met Shirley Mangini, a graduate student, whom he married. Over the next few years, González accepted similar one-year appointments at various American universities, including the University of Utah, the University of Maryland, and the University of Texas. He assumed a permanent position as professor of contemporary Spanish literature at the University of New Mexico in 1975.


Aspero mundo (Madrid: Rialp, 1956); Sin esperanza, con convencimiento (Barcelona: Literaturasa, 1961); Grado elemental (Paris: Ruedo Ibérico, 1962); Palabra sobre palabra (Madrid: Poesía para Todas, 1964; revised and enlarged editions (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1968, 1972, 1977); Tratado de urbanismo (Barcelona: Bardo, 1967); Breves acotaciones para una biografía (Las Palmas, Grand Canary Island: Inventarios Provisionales, 1971); Muestra de algunos procedimientos narrativos y de las actitudes sentimentales que habitualmente comportan (Madrid: Turner, 1976; revised and enlarged 1977);  Poemas (Madrid: Cátedra, 1980); Antología poética (Madrid: Alianza, 1982); Prosemas o menos (1984); A todo amor (1988); Lecciones de cosas y otros poemas (1998); 101 + 19 = 200 poems (Madrid: Visor, 1999); Otoños y otras luces (Barcelona: Tusquets, 2001); Palabra sobre palabra (Barcelona: Seix Barral: 2005)


Harsh World and Other Poems, trans. by Donald D. Walsh (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977); Astonishing World: The Selected Poems of Angel González 1958-1986, trans. by Steven Ford Brown and Gutierrez Revuelta (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 1993); Almost All the Music, and Other Poems, tr. by E. A. Mares (San Antonio, Texas: Wings Press, 2007)

Before I Could Call Myself Ángel González

Before I could call myself Ángel González,
before the earth could support the weight of my body,
a long time
and a great space were necessary:
men from all the seas and all the lands,
fertile wombs of women, and bodies
and more bodies, incessantly fusing
into another new body.
Solstices and equinoxes illuminated
with their changing lights, and variegated skies,
the millenary trip of my flesh
as it climbed over centuries and bones.
Of its slow and painful journey,
of its escape to the end, surviving
shipwrecks, anchoring itself
to the last sigh of the dead,
I am only the result, the fruit,
what's left, rotting, among the remains;
what you see here,
is just that:
tenacious trash resisting
its ruin, fighting against wind,
walking streets that go
nowhere. The success
of all failures. The insane
force of dismay...

         Translated from the Spanish by Steven Ford Brown and Gutierrez Revuelta

(from Palabra sobre palabra, 1964)

Dogs Against the Moon

Dogs against the moon, very far away,
bring close
the restlessness of the murmuring
night. Clear
sounds, once inaudible,
are now heard. Vague echoes,
shreds of words, creaking
disturb the shadowed circle.

Scarcely without space,
the silence, the silence
you can't hold, closed in
by sounds, presses
against your arms and legs,
rises gently to your head,
and falls through your loosened hair.

It's night and the dream: don't be uneasy.
The silence has grown like a tree.

          Translated from the Spanish by Steven Ford Brown and Gutierrez Revuelta

(from Palabra sobre palabra, 1964)

Astonishing World

An astonishing world
suddenly looms up.

I'm afraid of the moon
in the waters of the river,
the silent forest
that scratches with its branches
the belly of the rain,
that howl in the tunnel of night
and everything
that unexpectedly
makes a gesture and smiles
only so suddenly disappear.

In the midst
of the cruel retreat of things
rushing in headlong flight toward
nothingness and ashes,
my heart goes under in the shipwreck
of the fate of the world that surrounds it.
Where does the wind go, that light,
the cry
of the unexpected red poppy,
the singing of the gray
sea gulls of the ports?

And what army is it that takes me
wrapped up in its defeat and its flight
I, a prisoner, a wary hostage,
without name or number, handcuffed
among squads of fugitive cries
toward the shadows where the lights go,
toward the silence where my voice dies.

        Translated from the Spanish by Steven Ford Brown and Gutierrez Revuelta

(from Palabra sobre palabra, 1964)


Yesterday was Wednesday all morning.
By afternoon it changed:
it became almost Monday,
sadness invaded hearts
and there was a distinct
panic of movement toward
the trolleys
that take the swimmers down to the river.

At about seven a small plane slowly
crossed the sky, but not even the children
watched it.
              The cold
was unleashed,
someone went outdoors wearing a hat,
yesterday, and the whole day
was like that,
already you see,
how amusing,
yesterday and always yesterday and even now,
are constantly walking through the streets
or happily indoors snacking on
bread and coffee with cream: what

Night fell suddenly,
the warm yellow street lamps were lit,
and no one could
impede the final dawn
of today's day,
so similar
and yet
so different in lights and aroma!

For that very same reason,
because evrything is just as I told you,
let me tell you
about yesterday, once more
about yesterday: the incomparable
day that no one will ever
see again upon the earth.

         Translated from the Spanish by Steven Ford Brown and Gutierrez Revuelta

(from Palabra sobre palabra, 1964)

The Future

But the future is different
from that destiny seen from afar,
magical world, vast sphere
brushed by the long arm of desire,
brilliant ball the eyes dream,
shared dwelling
of hope and deception, dark
of illusion and tears
the stars predicted
and the heart awaits
and that is always, always, always distant.

But, I think, the future is also another thing:
a verb tense in motion, in action, in combat,
a searching movement toward life,
keel of the ship that strikes the water
and struggles to open between the waves
the exact breach the rudder commands.

I'm on this line, in this deep
trajectory of agony and battle,
trapped in a tunnel or trench
that with my hands I open, close, or leave,
obeying the heart that orders
pushes, determines, demands, and searches.

Future of mine...! Distant heart
that dictated it yesterday:
don't be ashamed.
Today is the result of your blood,
pain that I recognize, light that I admit,
suffering that I assume,
love that I intend.

But still, nothing is definitive.
Tomorrow I have decided to go ahead
and advance,
tomorrow I am prepared to be content,
tomorrow I will love you, morning
and night,
tomorrow will not be exactly as God wishes.

Tomorrow, gray or luminous, or cold,
that hands shape in the wind,
that fists draw in the air.

           Translated from the Spanish by Steven Ford Brown and Gutierrez Revuelta

(from Palabra sobre palabra, 1964)

Words Taken from a Painting by José Hernández

1.The first light of day

A rooster sings stones:

(Thin, pallid, translucent moon,
immobile, rigid, fused with sky.)

Against the tiles,
against the glass,
a rooster sings blood.

                                 (The wind
sifts through the sleeping trees.)

A rooster's song crests,
it sings gall-nuts,
spits its gizzard against the sky.

Green fruits spill down
the slopes into the ravines.

Knocking on doors, windows,
the rooster's insistent song warns you.

(Vultures high on the rocks
stretch their enormous wings.)

A rooster lays a stream of fire
across the white border of night.

Nothing else could happen: shouts, threats.
It's just been announced the truce has ended.

2.End of the last act

It is the grand finale
                      the opera is finished
part of the platform
                      an ovation
                      explodes against the wall
tearing the paper decorations
                      the curtain doesn't fall
a crack
                      an almost invisible cry
appears, expands
                      from the last singer
(lizard of ash
                      hangs for a moment
ant-hill of dust
                      in the shining
an invading
that reaches into everything
                      sliding at last
with its flexible forelegs
                      through the divided cupola
from the sky's most frightenting obscurity
                      into another more amplified nothingness
frightening obscurity
                      where it disappears forever.

An unforseen sadness breaks away from the roof
slightly stains
the costumes, the marble, the flowers, foreheads, shadows.
Already nothing is like before.
                                         No body returns
to their true self.
                       The eyes
can't recognize what they seek.
The emptiness (that was stone
((stone that was flesh (((flesh
that was a cry ((((cry that
was love, fear, hope?))))))
is enlarge, deformed,
explodes into a thousand pieces of emptiness
that strikes the already impassive faces.

Phrases fly from gloomy lips,
echoes of banal dialogues
wander through the deserted lobby
like dry seeds suspended in the air

Where's the exit?
Yesterday still lacks so much.
                                      Excuse me
But the cold follows.
                         No, it's nothing.

like the smoke asleep in an extinguished bonfire,
that the implacable breeze suddenly releases.

              Translated from the Spanish by Steven Ford Brown and Gutierrez Revuelta

(from Palabra sobre palabra, 1964)


"Before I Could Call Myself Ángel González," "Dogs Against the Moon," "Astonishing World," "Yesterday," "The Future," and "Words Taken from a Painting by José Hernádez"

Reprinted from Astonishing World: The Selected Poems of Angel González 1958-1986, trans. by Steven Ford Brown and Gutierrez Revuelta (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 1993). Copyright ©1986 by Editorial Seix Barral and Ángel González. English language translation copyright ©1993 by Steven Ford Brown and Gutierrez Revuelta. Reprinted by permission of Milkweed Editions.


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