Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pedro Salinas: Nada Mas Y Nada Menos

While the actual number of members belonging to La Generacion de '27 varies, the handful of poetas associated with the Generation of '27 reads like a dream team of Spanish lyricists. The group's most revered poets include the likes of Vicente Aleixandre, Federico Garcia Lorca, and Pedro Salinas. Although the Nobel Prize laureate and lamented bullfighter are obvious hall of famers, it is Salinas who may very well be the trio's finest talent. The recent publication of, Memory in My Hands: The Love Poetry of Pedro Salinas, confirms La Generacion's very own love poet is one of the greatest modern poets of any country.

With an introduction that sets the autobiographically inspired trilogy of love poems in context, devout fans and newbies are presented to a love affair in verse so enormously passionate and poignant that one is left worn and speechless. As in a game of chess, Salinas's love story arrives in three parts; a beginning, a middle, and an end.

So begins, The Voice I Owe to You, with the telling of his love affair with Katherine Reding, a graduate student in the Spanish literature class Salinas was teaching. "If you would call me, oh yes, / if you would only call me! / I would leave everything, / I would throw everything over; / prices, catalogs, / the blue of the ocean on maps," writes Salinas. "The days and their nights, / old telegrams / and a love, / if you would only call me!"

A mixture of delight and despair ensue in the middle book titled, A Reason for Love. It seems as though the poems written during this time reveal a brutal reality. Salinas's wife attempts suicide after discovering her once undeniable union with the poet had been penetrated; an action that ultimately led Reding to realize the malice and deception of their love affair. Reding would leave Spain by boat and say (what she assumed) her last goodbye to Salinas. Early on in, A Reason for Love, we detect Salinas's state of bewilderment as he writes, "Could you, love, be / a long goodbye that never ends? / From the beginning, to live is to separate. / In the first encounter / with light, with lips, / the heart perceives the grief / of having to be blind and alone one day."

The dictionary defines lament as to feel or show sorrow; therefore, Salinas's end which appears (for the first time in English translation) in the final volume titled, Long Lament, expresses the endless grief the poet sustained for Katherine Reding until his death. The lament is rendered in the following verse, "But there are hearts that never / will rest again or wait, / seated at the edge of / the slender voice with which / the now impossible / bliss keeps telling them: / I could have been, I could have been."

It is obvious why the others of La Generacion found fame, they wrote beyond the stanza. Pedro Salinas is a poet; nada mas y nada menos. His muse would not be unraveled by surrealism or in bullfighters, rather con el amor. There will be no make believe found within, Memory in My Hands, what will be discovered is the love (we) each one of us survives from day to day. In the end we understand all that is left are memories we carry in our hands as we accept they are too much to carry in our hearts.

Memory in My Hands: The Love Poetry of Pedro Salinas. Peter Lang Publishing, 2009.


msedano said...

a most welcome introduction to a poet unknown to me until just right now. i confess a bit of glee that he got his heart broken by a grad student. nothing burned my butt worse when i was in school than a profe hitting on and hooking up como dicen los jovenes with the woman sitting next to me in the seminar or classroom. said...

Pedro Salinas taught at the University pf Puerto Rico.It was in the years of 1944-45. I attended some of his poetry seminars. I write poetry when inspiration comes to me. He was very tall and blonde. He asked to be buried at Sta maria magdalene cemetery in La Perla, San Juanwhere he is buried. He was teaching in a girls school in Boston and he asked before he died to have his remains buried in San Juan. in t