These poems are acts of love in history. So too are their translations, published originally in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Spanish Civil War, and a twenty-fifth anniversary of their own. I have put some notes about the translations themselves, as well as some basic information about the war, the poetry, and the poets, separately, to save the reader distraction.
I thought first to publish an anthology of translations -- "The Heartened Voice," listed in the Index -- as my contribution to the commemoration, in my home town, of this anniversary. Prepared in my youth, the sheaf amounts to perhaps one-half of an adequate sample of the Civil War's poetry. But looking back on the use another poet helped make of my translations then, I realized that his gift had been for good, and bespoke the poetry's spirit better than any anthology could manage.
This book then is a hybrid. It includes the script of a 90-minute radio program drawn from this anthology, or rather from the track of a quest; plus the rest of the anthology, to complement the program, and vice-versa. The program "Winds of the People", scripted with Richard Vernier in early 1961, seems to me now more striking than I realized at the time. Not for its grasp of the event's politics -- for the perspective here is simple, simplistic if you will, leaping over vital complexities to connect with something also vital, in every sense.
No, the program remains luminous for the sense it even now makes of the poetry, as an intensely intimate and collective activity, pulse of the heart open-faced both ways, sweet individuated hum of the hive, even in distress. The program sets the poetry in a social-historical and human context -- not as an academic study would, but in the poetry's own terms, as a dramatic production, a committed act. It tries also to express the deep connection between popular sentiment, popular song and verse, and the work of some of the age's greatest poets, in and beyond the Spanish tongue.
I can afford this admiration, because Richard was responsible for making this sense of the formless mass of heart-material I'd accumulated, working my way through the archives. He wrote the basic script itself -- the sequencing, the transitional material, the collages of news-sources and documents -- and more, he grasped a form from the rich chaos, expressive of more than the historical thread the program follows. The Narrator is his voice; he was too courteous to play the role on the air, but his gift remains.
There is other form in the double heap, more directly mine. The poems here tell an inner story, of a global fraternity of committed poets, vital to their tongue and culture, who exchanged the public intimacies of their inner hearts in anguished solidarity. This story is innate to their poetry; but it is dominant here because it was what attracted me, as I went questing to sources in a brief lull in the early actions of the New Left, before we really knew we were one, or might be. My choices were informed by the rising spirit of that time, and also by deep personal sympathies -- for García Lorca took my heart too, at 16. It was in the riches of his body that I learned translation's craft, and fumbled my way into the sense of another tongue through his spirit as well his words.
Little of García Lorca's work is included here, since his assassination, at this distance, was identical with the outbreak of the War. But it was inevitable that I would be drawn to the rich out-pouring of determined and joyous grief, that his fraternity offered him in tribute and continuation. The pages here are dense with mutual reference, his hand and breath in theirs, resounding to the Western coast of the Americas, where Pablo Neruda in turn blessed the young Miguel Hernández, so soon to die, to carry on. The ripples of his fall in turn extended the offering, but that is beyond the story here. For the time, García Lorca was indeed the heart of a vital affair, as this book turns out to testify, more than I had planned.
There are so many people to thank, in the large, that this book itself must serve as the thanks, for the spirit to carry on. More locally, I am deeply grateful to Fanchon Lewis and Mimi Montgomery, whose typing has helped bring many a worthy project through the pinch during the years -- and to Malcolm Margolin and Nancy of Heyday Press, for hand-holding and technical aid, and Multi of General Printing for sympathetic expediting. Bless Berkeley, my dear community. This book is the child of belated impulse, produced in a week, from old manuscripts to the printer, in hope of making the 27 April commemoration here; my apologies for the typos. "... if I am late," as César Vallejo says, "... go seek her."
More personally, this book is for my parents, who taught me the songs and dreams; for Richard Vernier, comrade of my youth; and for my sons Lorca and Jaime, that they may find their own ways to carry spirit on in their time -- and for my dear mate Karen, who bears the sacrifice of my absence for the sake of her adopted land.