Several weeks ago, I had an opportunity to attend a poetry reading in Salem; Salem is the capital city of Oregon. Poet Carlos Reyes, an Oregon resident, gave a reading at a downtown bookstore. Reyes is an excellent and talented writer, poet, & translator. Of course, his reading that evening, at the bookstore, was superb and he focused mostly on his recent poetic projects. However, during the reading, I developed a nagging sensation, and I started to cast about, mentally, for a forgotten connection which had slipped my mind.
- a young Josefina de la Torre
A day or so later, I had the realization that I possessed copies of Reyes’ two-volume translation of Josefina de la Torre’s poetry, both of which I cherish. Josefina de la Torre pasted away in 2002, in her mid-nineties, and she had a long career as a writer, singer, & actress in Spain. She was also closely associated with the Spanish Generation of ’27 group of poets. And this group was a famous and influential group of poets; a group that is well known, and revered, within the Spanish and Latin American literary world; the group featured other artists within their orbit, such as painter Salvador Dali and filmmaker Luis Buñuel. The group were early champions of free verse, non-rhythmic patterning, and surrealism imagery or rich/exuberate imagery. They also attempted to bridge the gap between the then established poetry of Pure Poetry, which emphasized a stylistic musicality/patterning with the emerging poetry world of progressive poetry, or Impure Poetry, which emphasized rich content & imagery; Pure vs Impure Poetry was a literary aesthetic battle during the first half of the century. The Generation of ’27 poetry group comprised, among others, Pedro Salinas, Rafael Alberti, Federico García Lorca, and Luis Cernuda.
Reyes’ books of translation include the books Poems of Love & Madness: Selected Translations (2013) and de la Torre’s Poemas de la Isla (2000). The former is an extensive and authoritative volume of translations focusing on a variety of Spanish & Latin America poets from the first half of the 20th century. The latter is a thoughtful translation of de la Torre’s luminous poetry.
A day or so later after the reading in Salem, and in conjunction with the earlier realization, I had another epiphany. That is, I had an experience of a poetry reading by Carlos Reyes in this present year of 2016. Reyes interviewed de la Torre, as preparation for his translation work, in Madrid in the late 1990’s. And of course, de la Torre was a contemporary & peer with the Generation of ’27 in the mid-1920’s. Perhaps I had an experience of an indirect link, a six degrees of separation moment, a linking of the present to the past.