May 24, 2015

Angel González (Spain) 1925-2008

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 everything 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.



May 23, 2015

Sandra Santana (Spain) 1978

Sandra Santana (Spain)

Born in Madrid in 1978, Sandra Santana received her Ph.D. in Philosophy from the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, and has since then completed postgraduate studies at the University of Vienna and the University of Humboldt in Berlin

Santa received a creative fellowship from the Madrid Arts Foundation for Studens in 2002-2004.

     She has published a book of essays, El laberinto de la palabra, Karl Kraus y la cuestón lingüística en la Vienna fin de siglo (2011), Two collections of her poetry have appeared, Marcha por el desierto (2004) and Es el verbo tan frágil (2008).

     Santana has also translated works by Karl Kraus, Ernst Jandl and Peter Handke.
     She is also associated with the experimental literary publishing group, El águila ediciones, which focuses on alternative media poetry, and is Lecturer of Philosophy at the University of Zaragoza

Marcha por el desierto (2004); Es el verbo tan frágil (Pre-Textos, 2008).

On the Cost of the Argument or What Became of the Unspeakable

The theme is indeed intractable.

It wasn’t what we said,
it wasn’t what we left unsaid, neither
led to a decision.

It just ruptured our argumental
fabric, leaving an open
space for what might come.

Translated from the Spanish by Forrest Gander
Reprinted from Forfest Gander, ed. Panic Cure: Poetry from Spain for the 21st Century (Los Angeles: Otis
Books/Seismicity Editions, 2014). Copyright ©2014 by Forrest Gander.

Herta Kräftner (Austria) 1928-1951

Herta Kräftner (Austria)

 Herta Kräftner was born in Rosenau, in Sonntagberg in 1928, living in Mattersburg until the death of her radical socialist father, killed by the occupying Russians in 1945.
      Kräftner then moved to Vienna, studying German and English literature at the university. Soon after, she fell in love with man she described as her young “Anatol”--a reference to the character by writer Arthur Schnitzler--which ended badly.

Kräftner, soon after, began a relationship with neurologist Vickor E. Frankl, whose lectures she attended, and who introduced her to the literary circle around Hans Weigel at Café Raimund, which resulted in friendships and communication with major figures such as René Altmann, H.C. Artmann, Gerhard Fritsch, Friederike Mayröcker, and Andreas Okopenko, and she began publishing poetry.
     In 1950 she completed her thesis (on surrealism in the works of Franz Kafka) and found herself in the position of being one of the most impressive young Viennese writers, with new poems in Neue Wege and radio readings on Radio Wien and in Salzburg. 
     Yet Kräftner began to experience increasing depression, and in November of 1951, committed suicide by drinking Veronal. She was only 23 years of age.
   Her poetry appeared also in Die Zeil and in Okopenko’s anthology Publikationen Einer Wiener Gruppe Junger Autoren, but her work remained unpublished in book form until 1963, when her poems and memorable diary were published as Das Werk, edited by Okopenko and Otto Breicha. The book was reprinted in 1977, and another collection, Das blaue Licht (blue light), also edited by Breicha and Okopenko, was published in 1981. Another work Kühle Sterne was published in 2001.
     In 2001 the Vienna street Floridsdort was renamed Herta-Kräftner Alley.


Das Werk (Graz: Sttiasny Verlag, 1964; reprinted Eisenstadt: Edition Roetzer, 1977); Das blaue Licht (Darmstadt: Luchterland, 1981); Kühle Sterne (Klagenfurt: Weiser, 2001).


Selections in Milne Holton and Herbert Kuhner, eds. Austrian Poetry Today (New York: Schocken
Books, 1985)

The Boy

In a withered banana peel
there was still a rotting piece of the fruit
and the small of a warm and distant bay.

Smelling it for the first time
he was caught up in his desire
and made a ship out of notebook paper to sail away


The sky turned as yellow as cheap paper.
The dust-covered lane yawned and died.
She kept on writing the letter “i"
crookedly with an unsteady hand
in a brown and lialc autumn crocus land
A water-colored moon was like a spot on cheap paper.

—Translated from the German by Milne Holton and Herbert Kuhner

The Hangman’s Wife

Once, at midday, the hangman’s wife stopped eating.
Her husband was eating a young hen.
She watched him…and didn’t know why
she was reminded of her wedding day,
and of the myrtle, and that someone had sung.
It had been a white hen,
so tender and white and warm
and very patient under the knife.
Now her husband was eating it, and a drop of fat
ran over his manicured white fingers.

Her screams were like the condemned
when they caught sight of her husband
according to his descriptions.
She screamed and pushed her plate away
and ran out through the small front garden
and through the streets of the city,
through the field of poppies
and the field of wheat
and the field with green clover.
For a long time they searched,
but they never found her.

—Translated from the German by Milne Holton and Herbert Kuhner


Reprinted from Milne Holton and Herbert Kuhner, eds., Austrian Poetry Today (New York: Schoken Books, 1985). Copyright ©1985 by Milne Holton and Herbert Kuhner.