I wanted to write like Antonio
Gamoneda, so I went to León
and, after visiting the cathedral
to ask God to forget me,
I arrived at the poet’s house.
Maestro, I said, tell me,
reveal to me the secret of poetry.
I’m no maestro, just a dealer
of useless things.  And among these things
poetry is like a frigid
goddess proffering her gifs.
Can you imagine? If you want to write
like I do, write
and erase and write again.
Write like yourself, if you can,
or go to the melon patch and steal one
and go home to savor
the sweet lament of melons.
Writing comes before
not writing.  Therein lies the secret
that has nourished poetry both great
and small and otherwise.  And here
in León there is a cathedral
and a few bars where God
is always, while I write
here, whether or not I’m alone,
I don’t know, whether or not I’m alone.

Yo quería escribir como Antonio
Gamoneda, así que fui a León
y, tras visitar la Catedral
para pedirle a Dios que me olvidara,
llegué a la casa del poeta.
Maestro, le dije, dígame
o revéleme el secreto de la poesía.
Yo no soy maestro sino gestor
de bienes inútiles. Y entre estos bienes
está la poesía como una diosa
frígida ofreciendo sus dones.
¿Te imaginas? Si quieres escribir
como escribo yo, todo está escrito
y borrado y reescrito por mí.
Escribe como tú, si eso es posible,
o vete al melonar y roba alguno
y regresa a tu casa y saborea
el dulce lamentar de los melones.
Escribir es un gesto previo
al no escribir. He aquí el secreto
que ha alimentado a la gran poesía,
a la pequeña y a la otra. Y aquí
en León hay una catedral
y algunos bares donde siempre
está Dios, mientras yo escribo
aquí, no sé si solo,
no sé, no sé si solo.

© Antonio Masoliver. All rights reserved.




Juan Antonio Masoliver RódenasJuan Antonio Masoliver Ródenas

Juan Antonio Masoliver Ródenas (Barcelona, Spain, 1939) was professor of Spanish and Latin American literature at the University of Westminster in London and currently teaches in the Masters of Creative Writing program at the University Pompeu Fabra. He lives in El Masnou (Barcelona). He is a literary critic for the Cultura/s supplement of La Vanguardia in Barcelona. In Mexico he is or has been contributor to Vuelta, La Jornada Semanal, Letras Libres, Fractal and Crítica, among others. A wide range of his articles and essays on Spanish and Mexican literature were collected in Voces contemporáneas (Contemporary Voices, 2004) and Las libertades enlazadas (Interlaced Freedoms, 2000), respectively. As an author he has published the story collections La sombra del triángulo (The Shadow of the Triangle, 1996), La noche de la conspiración de la pólvora (The Night of the Gunpowder Plot, 2006) and most recently La calle Fontanills (Fontanills Street, 2010), as well as the novels Retiro lo escrito (I Withdraw the Printed Word, 1988), Beatriz Miami (Beatriz Miami, 1991) and La puerta del inglés (The Englishman’s Door, 2001). He has translated Cesare Pavese, Giorgio Saviane, Carson McCullers, Djuna  Barnes, and Vladimir Nabokov, among others.  His poetic works are collected in Poesía reunida (Collected Poems, 1999). Subsequently he published La memoria sin tregua (Relentless Memory, 2002), Sònia (Sonia, 2008) and a book of poems in Catalan, El laberint del cos (The Laberinth of the Body, 2008).

Translated from SpanishSpanish by Samantha SchneeSamantha Schnee

Samantha Schnee is a founding editor of Words without Borders. She is the former senior editor of Zoetrope: All-Story, a literary journal founded by Francis Ford Coppola that won the 2001 National Magazine Award for fiction. She translates from the Spanish.