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.
Considered by many to be the major poet of postwar Spain—the primary heir of Machado, Jiménez, García Lorca, and Cernuda—José Ángel Valente has taken a long time to reach English, but Thomas Christensen’s crystalline translation has made it worth the wait. —Eliot Weinberger
One of the most important poets of postwar literature. Valente’s work . . . answers to a single commitment: with the word. —El País
Valente exemplified poetic integrity, pushing poetry into terrains that compete with religious, mystical, and Heideggerian notions of inner being. —The Guardian
The best Spanish poet of the second half of the twentieth century. Valente never put himself in the service of any party or government. —Juan Goytisolo
Valente’s work is the radical adventure of solitude. Within these words an entire life passes, an adventure decisively impassioned by creation and solitary investigation. —ABC (Spain)
“[Valente’s] is a furtive poetry, struggling to exist in the interstices between the restrictions of a totalitarian regime and the urge to speak, to bear witness, no matter how obliquely…. It is to the translator’s credit that he has been able to render Valente’s work faithfully without losing its resonance across language and culture.” — Pablo Medina, The Brooklyn Rail