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--- M A R K   O S T R O W S K I

Selection, notes and translations by Mark Ostrowski

Roger Wolfe
Karmelo C. Iribarren
Pablo García Casado

PICK UP THE WEEKEND EDITION of any national daily in Spain nowadays and it's hard not to find heated commentary on the Banesto banking crisis, the fluctuating price of butane gas or poetry. Poetry? Yes, poetry. The proponents of traditional verse are up in arms against the so-called experiential school of poetry, and 1997 marked the year of their most intense fusillade in the print media. Whether claiming the popularity of the experiential school is the callous result of a successful marketing strategy (El País 2-16-97) or accusing them of having a lock on the top three publishing houses in the country (El Mundo 2-15-97), nothing has helped to diminish the interest in these poetas de la experiencia. Detractors have even resorted to calling them delinquents (El Correo de Andalucía 3-14-97), but the use of such ad hominem tactics only seems to suggest the lack of serious critical inquiry on their part.

With recent publications that garnered both critical and popular acclaim, the poets included here-Wolfe, Iribarren and García Casado-represent three of the more extreme voices of this recent shift in Spanish poetry. But why all the fuss? Their lyricism derives not from metaphors, but from the rhythms of everyday speech. Their approach is fiercely anti-academic; their subject matter, quotidian. In short: their way of using the language of Cervantes has many traditionalists calling for a full-fledged war that, for the moment, amounts to one side writing poetry while the other takes journalistic potshots.

Although Roger Wolfe (Kent, 1962) was born in England, he has lived in Spain since the age of four. Among the most influential poets of his generation, Wolfe is regarded as one of the premier stylists in the Spanish language. In addition to two volumes of short stories, two books of "essay-fiction" and one novel, he has published the following books of poems: Diecisiete poemas (1986), Días perdidos en los transportes públicos (1992), Hablando de pintura con un ciego (1993), Arde Babilonia (1994) and Mensajes en botellas rotas (1996; Messages in Broken Bottles). His next book of poetry, Cinco años de cama, together with a volume of selected poems tentatively called Noches de blanco papel, will be published later this year.

Until now, the only work of his to appear in English translation has been the poem "Llámame" (translated as "Call Me") from Días perdidos en los transportes públicos, which was published in a special issue of The Literary Review ([1993] 36:3) dedicated to "The Literature of Democratic Spain (1975-1992)". Wolfe appeared along with 37 other prominent Spanish authors from the covered period, including such writers as Camilo José Cela, Juan Marsé, Vázquez Montalbán, Rafael Alberti and Ángel González.

ROGER WOLFE From Messages in Broken Bottles

Karmelo C. Iribarren (San Sebastián, 1959) made his literary debut in 1993 with the chapbook Bares y Noches. The fact that Iribarren was already in his thirties when he began publishing poems constitutes just one of the ways in which he resembles his hard-living American predecessor, Charles Bukowski. In his first full-length book of poetry, La condición urbana (1995), Iribarren continued crafting the ironic, deceptively light musings that characterised his earlier work. These poems, which at times resemble aphorisms in length and content, deal with all things urban and domestic: gender politics, the solitude often found in the best of company, frustrated desire, the squandering of time and money. In some of his most illuminating work, we find the speaker questioning the direction-or lack thereof-of the Spanish literary establishment and the nature of poetic creation itself. His latest book, Serie B, has just been published by Renacimiento.


Pablo García Casado (Córdoba, 1972) has participated in the creation of various literary magazines, including Reverso and Recuento, and his poems have appeared in such journals as Pliegos de la Posada, Navalá and Lúnula. His first book of poetry, Las Afueras (The Outskirts), was published in 1997. In the 48 poems that make up this volume, García Casado uses an experimental narrative style to explore the ways in which human beings come to terms with the urban landscape while chronicling their volitional or accidental entanglement in a web of interdependencies. With alarming lucidity, the poet reveals how these urban dwellers manipulate relationships-the majority of which are struck up in bad-faith and untenable-in order to keep the solitude of city streets from invading their hearts.


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