WHAT DOES IT MEAN to be a modernist poet at the end of the twentieth century? Perhaps no poet more clearly embodies the ethos of “late modernism” than José Angel Valente, whose final book, Fragmentos de un libro futuro, was published after his death in the final year of the millennium. This book is not only posthumous but also designed to be posthumous. According to its front flap, “José Angel Valente concibió una suerte de obra poética ‘abierta’, un libro que—como la parábola cervantina de Ginés de Pasamonte o la novela de Proust—no acabaría sino con la desaparición misma del autor” ( José Angel Valente conceived of a sort of “open” poetic work, a book that, like the Cervantine parable of Ginés de Pasamonte or Proust’s novel, would not end until the author himself disappeared; my translation here and throughout). The book’s futurity, then, lies beyond the lifespan of the poet. Yet, in relation to the avant-garde movements of the earlier part of the twentieth century, Valente’s book is decidedly nostalgic rather than forward looking. Its predominant tone is elegiac. While steeped in the culture of modernity, it ultimately exemplifies an arrière-garde rather than an avant-garde spirit. Given Valente’s pre-eminent position within the canon of late twentieth-century Spanish poetry, an examination of his work during the last two decades of his life can also reveal the degree to which the modernist aesthetic has maintained its vitality in the contemporary period.
A little verbose. It's not much different from how I write now, and I don't have the distance from it to give it a grade. A-?