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.



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