Born in Seville in 1898, Aleixandre spent his early summers in Málaga, the place that spawned many of his later poems. In the early 1920s he moved to Madrid, participating in the discussions at the Residencia de Estudiantes, where many poets of his generation, including Federico García Lorca and Jorge Guillén, met and talked on a regular basis. But it was the poetry of Rubén Darío (see PIP, volume 1) that most influenced his early work, and stirred him to begin writing poetry as well.
His first poetry appeared in Ambito (Ambit) in 1928, after his friends had sent some of the works to José Ortega y Gasset's Revista de Occidente. Despite the obvious influences of other poets in these early poems, the work revealed many of the characteristics of Aleixandre's later writing.
Beginning in 1925, Aleixandre, having contracted tubercular nephritis, was secluded and had to curtail his activities. His second book, Pasión de la tierra (1935) (Earth Passion), is more clearly a result of his illness. Having recently read the works of Sigmund Freud and James Joyce, Aleixandre used various metaphors and similies through this work to present a sort of dialogue between eros and thanatos.
Because of the Spanish Civil War, this important work, originally published in Mexico City, was virtually unkown in Spain until the mid-1940s. In 1932 Aleixandre published Espadas como labios, written after Pasión de la tierra, but published previous to it. The book marked a return to versification and to a greater control of images.
La destrucción o el armor (Destruction of Love), also published in 1935, further explored erotic love against a background of a natural world which is in complete flux, alternating between destruction and transfiguration. Written in 1934, Mundo a solas (World Alone) was published in 1950. This is a much darker and pessimistic book in its presentation of mankind's loss of primeval innocence.
During the Civil War, Alexiandre remained in Spain, where his home was nearly destroyed in the battle of Madrid. Accordingly, at a time when other poets immigrated or were murdered, he stood as an important figure of the great "Generation of 27."
He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1977.
BOOKS OF POETRY
Ambito (Málaga: Litoral, 1928); Espadas como labios (Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1932); Pasión de la tierra (Mexico City: Fábula, 1935); La destrucción o el amor (Madrid: Signo, 1935); Sombra del paraíso (Madrid: Adán, 1944); Mundo a solas 1934-1936 (Madrid: Clan, 1950); Nacimiento último (Madrid: Insula, 1953); Mis poemas mejores (Madrid: Gredos, 1956); Poesías completas (Madrid: Aguilar, 1960); Poemas amorosos (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1960; enlarged, 1970); En un vasto dominio (Madrid: Revista de Occidente, 1962); Presencias (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1965); Retratos con nombre (Barcelona: El Barda, 1965); Dos vidas (Málaga: El Guadalhorce, 1967); Poemas de la consumación (Barcelona: Plaza & Janés, 1968); Obras completas (Madrid: Aguilar, 1968; revised and elarged [2 volumes], 1978); Sonido de la guerra (Valencia: Cultura, 1972); Diálogos del conocimiento (Barcelona: Plaza & Janés, 1974); Nuevos poemas varios (Barcelona: Plaza & Janés, 1987)
ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRANSLATIONS
Twenty Poems, trans. by Lewis Hyde and Robert Bly (Madison, Minnesota: Seventies Press, 1977); Destruction or Love, trans. by Stephen Kessler (Santa Cruz, California: Green Horsse Three, 1977); A Longing for the Light: Selected Poems, trans. by Lewis Hyde and others, edited by Lewis Hyde (New York: Harper & Row, 1979; reprinted Port Townsend, Washington: Cooper Canyon Press, 1985); The Crackling Sun, trans. by Louis Bourne (Madrid: Española de Librería, 1981); A Bird of Paper, trans. by Willis Barnstone and David Garrison (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1982)
For an interview with Aleixandre (in Spanish), click here:
I was born one summer night
between two pauses. Speak to me: I'm listening.
I was born. If you could only see what suffering
the moon displays without trying.
I was born. Your name was happiness.
A hope under the radiant light, a bird.
Arriving, arriving. The sea was a pulse,
the hollow of a hand, a warm medallion.
So now they're all possible: the lights, the caresses,
the skin, the horizon,
talking with words the mean nothing,
that roll around like ears or seashells,
like and open lobe that dawns
(listen, listen) in the trampled light.
-Translated from the Spanish by Lewis Hyde
(from Espadas como labios, 1932)
For another poem, go here:
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