poetry

poetry
   The trajectory of Spanish poetry in the years 1939–90 is complex, beginning with the relatively impoverished poetic landscape of the aftermath of the Civil War. The social and existential themes of the 1940s and 1950s eventually gave way to a spirit of aesthetic experimentation, culminating in the "culturalism" of the late 1960s. The period since 1975 has witnessed competing tendencies, including the emergence of a number of important women poets.
   Contemporary Spanish poets are the heirs to one of the richest poetic traditions in western Europe. With the close of the Civil War in 1939, however, most of the brilliant figures of the prewar period were either exiled, like Juan Ramon Jiménez, Luis Cernuda and Pedro Salinas, or dead, like Antonio Machado and Federico García Lorca, one of the first Spanish intellectuals to be killed in the conflict. The loss of so many important poets in so brief a time left a vacuum in the immediate postwar period: in contrast to the avant-garde style of the poets of the 1920s, José García Nieto, associated with the magazine Garcilaso, championed a more traditional style, emphasizing religious and patriotic themes. Existential and socio-political concerns were also characteristic of post-war poetry. The 1950s saw the rise of the socially engaged verse of Vicente Aleixandre, Blas de Otero, and Gabriel Celaya, as well as the testimonial poetry of José Hierro.
   The dominance of politically engaged poetry, which was often perceived to be aesthetically deficient, provoked a reaction among some of the younger poets of the 1950s. In contrast to the propagandistic tone of social poetry, which implied that the poet was communicating a previously formulated message, these young writers envi-sioned writing as an exploration of the creative process. The result was the visionary poetics of Claudio Rodríguez, the minimalism of José Angel Valente, and the sombre metaphysical poetry of Francisco Brines. Gloria Fuertes" innovative colloquialism links her to the humorously incisive poetry of Angel González. Valente's "poetics of silence" has been extremely influential on the work of younger poets of the 1970s and 1980s. Jaime Gil de Biedma's ironic explorations of his own life experiences have had equal importance for other poets of this same period. María Victoria Atencia, another poet of this age-group, only began to receive her due in the 1980s, when her work began to appear for the first time outside of her native Málaga. The novísimos, a group of poets who came of age around the year 1968, broke in more radical fashion with the postulates of the social and existential poetry of postwar Spain. What is most striking in their work is the combination of intellectual excitement, aesthetic ambition and cultural ferment. Poets like Guillermo Carnero, Ana María Moix, Leopoldo María Panero, and Pere Gimferrer commanded a vast knowledge of both traditional "high culture" and twentiethcentury popular culture, from Hollywood movies to rock "n" roll. The so-called "culturalism" characteristic of their poetry consisted of the ostentatious citation of literary and cultural intertexts. In their flamboyant eclecticism, the novísimo group reflected the rebellious spirit of the international youth culture of the late 1960s, although some, like Luis Antonio de Villena, later denounced the excesses of "culturalism". There were two or three notable developments in Spanish poetry in the years following the death of Franco in 1975. One is a reaction to what is often perceived as the excessive intellectualism and avant-garde spirit of the novísimo poets writing during the years 1968–75. In their desire to connect more directly with the reading public, poets such as Luis García Montero and Felipe Benítez Reyes proposed a return to the "poetry of experience" of the poets of the 1950s, especially Jaime Gil de Biedma. Others, including Andrés Sánchez Robayna and Amparo Amorós, have practiced a minimalist "poetics of silence" in the manner of José Angel Valente. Perhaps the most important development in the 1980s is the emergence of an important group of women poets, who have taken centre stage in Spanish poetry for the first time in history. Ana Rossetti, Blanca Andreu and Luisa Castro have written formally and thematically audacious poetry that often challenges accepted attitudes towards gender and sexuality. Rossetti's erotically explicit poems have had an especially great impact.
   There is a sense among some poets and critics that lyric poetry has become a relatively "minor" genre in comparison with the novel and with film; poetry no longer occupies the cultural centre in the way it perhaps did in the 1920s. This apparent diminution in the overall significance of the genre does not reflect any lack of quality or vitality among contemporary Spanish poets. It is the result, rather, of poetry's continued identification with "high culture" in a period in which audiovisual media have taken centre stage. At the same time, however, writers like García Montero and Rossetti have continued to find new ways to connect with the reading public. While the audience for poetry may be small in absolute terms, it remains a vital part of the culture of contemporary Spain.
   Further reading
   - Debicki, A.P. (1982) Poetry of Discovery: The Spanish Generation of 1956-1971, Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky (important studies of Rodríguez, Valente, Gil de Biedma, etc.).
   —— (1994) Spanish Poetry of the Twentieth Century: Modernity and Beyond, Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky (contains especially useful overviews of Spanish poetry of the 1970s and 1980s).
   - Mayhew, J. (1994) The Poetics of Self-Consciousness: Twentieth-Century Spanish Poetry, Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press (includes studies of major poets from the 1920s to the 1980s).
   JONATHAN MAYHEW

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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