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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Machado Himself

If you are thinking about translation, you should have an idea about the poetics of the poet, not merely the words of the poems.  I used to have a list of 5 things I knew about Machado, but I cannot reproduce those exactly. I am relying here on Gullón's Una poética para Antonio Machado as well as on my own reading of this poet.

1. Meter and rhyme are important for him. Did he write many poems (or any?) without rhyme?  One reason is that he saw poetry as an art of time (palabra en el tiempo). The movement of the verse and the way the poem unfolds in time is crucial.  He creates structures of surprise.  He uses verse for various effects: sing-song monotony, when he wants to, or the slow revelation of surprising ideas.

2. Language is important for him. His language seems austere compared to the modernista poets, but it is still quite literary, and even playful in the way it deploys registers and rhetorical figures.  There is an illusion of the plainspoken, sometimes because he tells you he is being plain-spoken. He uses particularly well-crafted stanza with an elaborate four-part simile to tell us that he doesn't care about craft: "dejar quisiera / mi verso, como deja el capitán su espada / famosa por la mano viril que la blandiera / no por el docto oficio del forjador preciada." Notice the chiasmic word order and the allusion to DQ and the discourse on arms and letters.  Gullón notes his modernist condensation in two chapters at the end of the book. Machado does not waste words.

3. He is a pre-avant-garde poet.  He doesn't do any "modern" stuff resulting from poets after 1912, except in that condensation of language. He doesn't like surrealism.  He doesn't like baroque, so you won't find him celebrating Góngora. What he does share with the younger poets is the interest in popular forms of poetry like the romance. He has phases in his work, culminating in the aphorisms of the late work and the apocryphal poets.

4. He has elaborate modes of self-presentation that critics tend to misrepresent as simplistic sincerity.

5. In Spain he is considered the best and most influential ever, by many as superior to Lorca.

That's all I've got today.

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