My Voice Because of You
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The Spanish poet Pedro Salinas is a member of that group of brilliant and original poets called the Generation of '27, a group which includes Rafael Alberti, Jorge Guillén, Luis Cernuda, Vincente Aleixandre, and Frederico García Lorca. First published as La voz a ti debida in Madrid in 1933, Salinas' sequence of seventy poems is his most famous work, and is thought by many to be the best book of love poetry written in this century. Willis Barnstone's translation makes it available as a whole for the first time in English.
As part of Spain's vanguard movement, Salinas believed in reviving elements from earlier eras, as is demonstrated by a title such as Razón de amor (from the medieval Sermon of Love), as well as Largo Lamento and La voz a ti debida (from the Renaissance poet Garcilaso de la Vega). Salinas shows a natural affinity with the intricate objectivity of the baroque poet Góngora, and continues the Spanish mystical tradition while reaching the metaphysical through human love. And though he learned much from earlier eras, he is also very much of this century, as is seen in his imagery of typewriters, telephones, and car radiators, all deftly handled through a variety of poetic moods.
In fact, few modern poets have so discerningly employed the external data of our experience as transformed though the emotions and imagination. For Salinas "Telegraph wires carry kisses. " He is by turns playful, ironic, sentimental, and despairing, leading us through love's sense of amazement, humor, tragedy. Salinas' confessional persona speaks with extraordinary power, and the poems operate both individually and cumulatively. Willis Barnstone's translation captures the changing tones of the poet's internal journey, giving us a deep sense of the variety and poignancy found in the original.
My Voice Because of You has been accepted in UNESCO's series of translations of European literature.
Pedro Salinas (1891–1951) was born in Madrid, and, like his life-long friend Jorge Guillén, was a poet, professor, scholar, and critic. After teaching at Seville, the Sorbonne, and elsewhere in Europe, he came to the United States in 1936 to teach at Wellesley College. He also taught at Middlebury, and the last years of his life were spent at the Johns Hopkins University.
Salinas' Poesías completas appeared in 1971, an edition containing nine volumes of poems as well as some early and late work. He also wrote several prose sketches, a novel, short stories, plays, critical editions, translations, and seven volumes of essays and criticism. He died in Boston in 1951. Willis Barnstone is Professor of Comparative Literature at Indiana University. He has published several books of poetry, including A Day in the Country, From This White Island (A Pulitzer nominee), and China Poems, and has translated books of Sappho, Greek lyric poetry, Mao Tse-tung, Saint John of the Cross, and Antonio Machado. He is currently completing a volume on Jorge Luis Borges and a translation of the Spanish mystic Fray Luis de León.