A LONGING FOR THE LIGHT: Selected Poems by Vicente Aleixandre


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Hardly anyone knew Aleixandre's poetry before he won the Nobel in 1977; even now, the work recommends itself very modestly. A Freudian and sentimental surrealism dominates the early work (1928-1944): ""What hunger for running off at the mouth and for brute force slapping this afternoon's silent decline, which turns its palest cheek, as if faking the death which is announcing itself, as it if were calling for a bedtime story!"" The middle poetry focuses better; poems like ""At the Bottom of the Well (The Buried Man)"" and ""Lightless"" are good, but the texture is very similar to the American ""deep image"" school of the Sixties, lurid paintings on black velveteen: ""Solitude flashes in the loveless world./ Life is a bright crust,/ a rugged fixed skin,/ where man can find no rest,/ however much he applies his sleep to a darkened star."" But as he grows older, Aleixandre relinquishes his pell-mell conjunctions. Best of all are the poems of old age (he's in his late seventies now and has always been in frail health) like ""Bent Time,"" ""Close to Death"" (""That yellow silk curtain, pushed/ by a breath of wind, extinguished by some other light""), and the equally light-haunted ""If Someone Could Have Told Me"": ""Did I know who I was or just learn to forget myself?/ Did I honor the fish (lively silver in time)/ or was I trying to domesticate light?"" The translations, mostly by editor Lewis Hyde, seem barely adequate.

Pub Date: Aug. 8th, 1979
Publisher: Harper & Row