For José Ángel Valente, the word was foremost. He was of a generation that came of age under the Franco dictatorship. But unlike many of his contemporaries, he did not often address political or social issues directly in his poems. His influence as a poetic force proved to be much deeper. From the outset Valente’s work was bold yet disciplined, immediate yet lyrical, combining poetic precision with a knack for capturing vital moments and a keen ear for musicality. His chief concern was poetry that explored and transcended itself: poetry as knowledge. A poet of unfailing integrity, he never wavered in his pursuit of the truth of the word. Exploring questions of love, loss, and the spirit, he stripped twentieth-century Spanish poetry of its rhetorical excesses, producing contemplative, introspective, and at times mystical verses, rejecting the facile and embracing silence. In his later years, he turned to stirring, highly distilled prose poems in such works as The Singer Does Not Awaken and Landscape with Yellow Birds. Then the clear melody of his early verse gave way to intensely resonant passages that folded in upon each other and opened startling vistas in unexpected directions. This is the first major selection of Valente’s work to appear in English.
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About the Author
Thomas Christensen is the author of 1616: The World in Motion and New World/New Words: Recent Writing from the Americas. He has translated, often in collaboration with his wife, Carol Christensen, works by Carlos Fuentes, Julio Cortázar, Alejo Carpentier, and Louis-Ferdinand Céline, among others. He lives in Richmond, California.