Saturday, 21 November 2009

Antonio Gamoneda and British readers

Antonio Gamoneda is renowned is Spain as one of the country's best living poets. Now an elderly man, he worked for many years as a bank clerk, writing without recognition. This was until the publication of his selected poems, Edad, which won the National Poetry Prize. Later collections, such as Libro del Frío, were extremely well received by critics. Gamoneda's found awards raining down on him over the last few years, topped off by the Premio Cervantes, a Hispanic version of the Nobel Prize.

In other words, we're dealing with a key figure here. So why isn't his work available to U.K. readers? Well, I recall attending a reading with him a few years ago in Zafra, when I also had the chance to enjoy a few tapas with the man himself afterwards. It was a wonderful reading and a great night. Gamoneda took the audience by the scruff of its neck and entranced everyone. One of my main memories of the event is the shine in so many of my Spanish friends' eyes as they listened. I too was captivated, but perhaps never more aware of the gulf between U.K. and Spanish poetic aesthetics. I sat there thinking how terrific Gamoneda was and how absurd he would sound to most of my British friends.

In a recent thread over a Poets On Fire, Tony Frazer (the excellent editor at Shearsman) specifically remarked how disappointed he'd been by Gamoneda when at a reading a oouple of years ago. Here's a link to Gamoneda on You Tube for you to see what we mean!

I've had numerous discussions recently about the difficulties that are inherently involved in translating Spanish poetry for U.K. readers, and I feel Gamoneda is one of the best examples of the problem. Superb in Spanish, he's slightly ridiculous in U.K. English.

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