Ángel González

(1925-2008)


Ángel was a poet I reread frequently, because I felt he brushed the cobwebs off my eyes. His poetry did not seem innovative, and yet it made everything new... He remains, and will remain, one of my favorite poets of all time.

—JOSÉ SARAMAGO



"I

  was born in Oviedo in 1925. The time and setting of my life made me witness—rather than act in—countless violent events: an uprising, a civil war, dictatorships. While still a child, in a handful of years, I became, after being the subject of a king, the citizen of a republic—and then the object of a tyranny. I return, almost an old man, to my origins, a subject once more of the same Crown.
Ángel González, Sin esperanza con convencimiento (Barcelona: Colliure, 1961)
Tossed about in this manner by fate—which wove its schemes and never took my will into account—I settled for studying a degree in Law. It had never interested me in the slightest, but it also didn't go against the custom, or almost binding rule ("every Spaniard has a Law degree until proven otherwise"), submitted to by most young men of my age and social class—a middle class which, in my case, as a result of the civil war, had become very mediocre.

Long and prematurely trained in the exercise of patience, and in the careful restoration of hopes systematically trampled on, I learnt from an early age to protest in whispers, to curse inwardly and to speak ambiguously, very little and always of other things; that is to say, to use irony, metaphor, metonymy and reticence. If I came to write poetry, it was, above all, to make use of any modest abilities I'd acquired by the simple act of being alive. But I would have rather been a musician—a singer-songwriter of sentimental boleros—or a painter, perhaps. Instead, I became a civil servant. In 1970 I visited America for the first time—Mexico and the United States—and began living on this continent in 1972 (as a visiting professor at universities in New Mexico, Utah, Maryland and Texas). Currently, I teach contemporary Spanish literature at the University of New Mexico."

[Translated from Ángel González's collected poems, Palabra sobre palabra (Madrid: Seix Barral,  2004)]


Poems


"First Evocation" (from Poetry London)

"Biographical Detail" (link to Granta magazine)

"It's What Happens, Sometimes, in October"
(link to Poetry Review)

"Zero City" (from Poetry Review)

"Another Way"

"For My Name to Be Ángel González," "A Message for Statues," "In the Far Distance...," "The Vanquished" and "I Know What It Is to Wait" (links to Cordite Poetry Review)

"Inventory of Places Propitious for Love" (link to Modern Poetry in Translation)

"Affluent Civilization"

"By Magic" (from his posthumous collection Nada Grave)


Prose


"Why Do I Write?"

"On Poets and Poetry"

From "Words upon Receiving the Prince of Asturias Award in Literature (1985)"



Interviews


Ángel González continues his autobiographical sketch post 1972.


Audio & Video


In Spanish:

Ángel González reading "Dato Biográfico" (Biographical Detail) and other poems at palabravirtual.com.

25-min CNN+ interview with Ángel González (split into four YouTube parts).

10-min Cervantes Virtual Library interview with Ángel González (split into 12 YouTube parts; part 11, on poetry's small readership, makes some neat points).


Links


There's a great number of Web sites dedicated to Ángel González's life and poetry.

In Spanish, the pages at the Cervantes Virtual Library have a wealth of material and provide further links.

In English, beyond a few translations and some introductory notes on the Web, the best studies are offline: (1) Andrew Debicki's relevant chapters in Poetry of Discovery: The Spanish Generation of 1956-1971 (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1982) and Spanish Poetry of the Twentieth Century (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1994); and (2) Martha LaFollette Miller's Politics and Verbal Play: The Ludic Poetry of Ángel González (Teaneck: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1995).


Notes

Grateful acknowledgment is made to Ángel González's heiress, Susana Rivera, for permission to translate and publish Ángel's work.