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Friday, January 18th, 2008 by

Author and translator Steven Ford Brown sent this remembrance of poet Ángel González:

An announcement that Spanish poet Ángel González died came to me on January 12. He died in Madrid after an illness. He was 82. The high esteem to which he is held in Spain is evident in the number of pages El Pais, the major newspaper in Spain, devoted to his life in photographs, audio, articles, and commentary. His passing is a major event. It’s also worth noting that his passing was carried in news wire articles from Australia and New Zealand to the various capitals of Europe and Latin America and in many American newspapers. It is important to understand the importance of literature and poetry to Spanish culture: when I was living in Barcelona I saw advertisements every other night for books of poetry on Spanish television: the collected poetry of Pablo Neruda or Federico Garcia Lorca in deluxe editions!

Ángel González is one of the last living representatives of the generation of Spanish writers and artists known as the “Generation of the ‘50s.” Most of the writers were born in the 1920s and thus were children when the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) broke out. The war itself, as well as the regime of Franco, left an indelible mark upon their very souls as evidenced in their work, which came to be designated as “social poetry.” The poets of the Generation included Francisco Brines, Jaime Gil de Beidma, Gloria Fuertes, Ángel González, Claudio Rodriguez, Carlos Sahagun and J.A. Valente, all of who have now passed away. The importance of the Generation of ’50 can’t be underestimated in Spanish poetry as they were the bridge between the Generation of ‘27 (Rafael Alberti, Vicente Aleixandre, Miguel Hernandez, Ferico Garcia Lorca) and modernism.

Through the good graces of Daniel Shapiro at The Americas Society in New York City, I was able to read with Ángel González in 2002. Dan and I met with Ángel in his hotel room before the reading to plan the poems we would read together. He was in his late 70s then and like most older Europeans addicted to tobacco and thus we were turned away from numerous restaurants until we found a bar that would let him smoke while we ate. The Americas Society, founded by David Rockefeller, is on Park Avenue in what can be described as a refurnbished mansion next to the Italian Embassy. We were led in to meet the director of The Society and have our photographs taken with Ángel.

The reading room was packed to overflowing that night. Ángel read in Spanish from my bilingual book of his poetry (Astonishing World, Milkweed Editions, 1993) and told funny jokes and then I-–as straight man–had to follow in English. The audience treated him like a rock star. People qued up afterwards to get autographs and shake his hand and pose for photographs. He was the last of a Generation and one of Spain’s most decorated and important living poets. He was a gracious man, a wonderful poet, a true son of Spain, and a mentor to many. He will be greatly missed.

To view materials related to the life and death of Ángel González I have prepared a special web page on his death: www.stevenfordbrown.com/agmadrid.htm.

Century of the Death of the Rose: Selected Poems of Jorge Carrera Andrade, translated by Steven Ford Brown, is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon.com, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

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