Saturday, 16 May 2009

Jordi Virallonga, exceptional in every sense

Jordi Virallonga is from Catalunya and lives there, yet writes much of his work in Spanish. In the current socio-linguistic climate, this is exceptional in itself. However, Virallonga is also exceptional for the poetry he writes.

The Spanish poetry scene often seems to get tied up in knots about whether poetry should approach life in order to understand it or take an esoteric step away. Nevertheless, the most outstanding Spanish poets of recent years have risen above this navel-gazing, tending not to fit into the "Generations" and "Schools" that are so beloved of their contemporaries. Jordi Virallonga is one such poet.

Of all his collections, my favourite by far is Crónicas de Usura, published in 1999. It's an elegaic book, not a sequence but a series of interweaving poems that also work excellently as stand-alone pieces. Urban surroundings, metaphysics, everyday events and brilliant lists all work together as Virallonga seeks to express what none of us can. Many Spanish poets and critics would classify and separate each of these features as belonging to one "School" or another. In this case, the poet is brave enough to juxtapose them, using them as and when he needs them as poetic resources. Self-limitation is not for Virallonga.

What's more, he's not shy of brilliant turns of phrase. Not flashy, just providing a new way of viewing something familiar:

"una historia doblada como un avión de papel"..."a story folded like a paper plane"

Jordi Virallonga is exceptional in 21st century Spanish poetry - few other current Spanish poets have shaken off the critical shackles that their contemporaries seem to use as security blankets. I thoroughly recommend his work, above all Crónicas de Usura, an outstanding blend of transatlantic and Spanish influences that fuses into an original voice.

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