Jose Angel Valente is a poet, essayist and translator. He was born on April 25, 1929 in Ourense, Galicia. He studied law and Romance philology, and taught Spanish philology at Oxford. To him Spain owes the translations of John Dunn, John Keats, Constantinos Cavafy, Paul Celan, Dylan Thomas, Eugenio Montale, as well as Albert Camus's novel The Stranger. His texts reflect problems such as poverty, violence, memory and time, the meaning and responsibility of the artist to the word, as well as the fate of the artist himself. He died on July 18, 2000 in Geneva.
POET IN TIMES OF MISSION
He spoke hurriedly.
He spoke without listening, seeing or speaking.
Someone running away spoke like that,
he suddenly hid among the false chatter
out of compassion and unreality.
He spoke without punctuation and without silence,
mixing in each pause grimaces for learning
fun to avoid perhaps the covert question,
agreement with your past,
its naked truth.
He spoke as if he wanted to erase his life in front of him
an awkward witness to him,
and therefore surrounded himself with minor beings,
who nursed him from waste
a vulgar vanity.
So he bought silence at a raw price,
the sustainable situation with a raw price,
right to life at a raw price,
with the price of raw bread.
The metal is precious, perhaps, to be beaten by a hammer
for the purest cause.
Poet in a time of misery, in a time of lies
and of infidelity.
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The man with his teeth gathered for counsel,
he studied his pallor, took it out
a bone in his chest. "Never," he said to himself,
A child came suddenly, raised his hand,
he asked for bread, broke the thread of the word.
The speaker exploded, everyone ran away.
"Never violence," they told themselves.
Pour the winter abundant mud, starvation.
Poverty swims with taut sails.
The support in processions is organized
with a solemn display. There were more dead.
But never, never, violence.
Gone is one, one hundred, two hundred, many:
the air itself was not enough.
The year was better than other worse ones.
He hadn't left, and no one had
a distorted appeal to justice.
The municipal councilor, the union, the night watchman,
the lonely, the guard, the deaf,
the humanities professor: everyone
gathered under his corpse,
smiling and pacifying, and weeping,
for their children rather, not for themselves.
He breathed rotten air
and order petals.
Get rid of History unscathed, the principles
of gas lighting, public faith.
- Never violence, the choir sang,
unanimously, happy, persistent.
NO MAN'S LAND
The city was looking
yellowed and tired
like a sad ox.
He was coming in
the fog gradually
through the long galleries.
A small town lost, abandoned,
We had no idea
which card to bet on
so as not to go back again
with nothing in his hands
like divers in the void.
Incomplete words or impossible
The boys are fine
revered to families.
And the solemn dead.
Long trains passed
And the mist descended,
licking the cracks
and darkening the cold.
I would get lost in the long galleries
of the children's space, now naked,
trimmed, walled up today by the absence.
SECOND CELEBRATION OF ISIDOR DUCAS *
A poet must be more useful
by every citizen of his tribe.
A poet must know
various intransigent laws.
The Law on the Opposition of the Visible,
drawing the dividing lines,
the one for placing the breakwater
and the generalized law of the circle.
Not to know the assassination of the king instead
as a form of crime
and other false words of history.
Poetry must aim at practical truth.
Her mission is difficult.
AFTER WAKING UP
After waking up,
while you were standing
on the threshold of the day,
I wrote words
on your body.
Then night came and erased them.
But you still knew me.
Then I saved
with one breath
the same words
on your body
and everyone who touched them -
was burned by their light.
* Isidore Ducas is a French poet who died at the age of 24 for unknown reasons. He is believed to have been killed by police during riots during the siege of Paris in 1870.
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