Orfeo XXI: Poesía española contemporánea y tradición clásica
This book's origin is a conference that took place in Valencia in 2004 organized by the Cátedra Miguel Delibes of Contemporary Literature in collaboration with the Valladolid Society of Classical Studies. It is composed of three segments: the first is a concise introduction by the editors, who reveal that the conference program was organized around two genres—the epigram and the elegy—, and two myths, those of Orpheus and Ulysses. The second component contains the four papers presented at the conference, all of them of outstanding quality and clearly documented with copious footnotes. They are "Versiones, revisones y (per)versiones del epigrama en las últimas generaciones poéticas" by Begoña Ortega Villaro, "Formas de la elegía en la poesía española reciente" by Francisco Díaz de Castro, "Orfeo ya no vive aquí" by Jorge Fernández López, and "Ecos de Homero en el discurso poético contemporáneo. La Odisea en verso" by Pedro Conde Parrado. In the paper by Ortega Villaro, the author reviews the origins of the epigram, underscores the contributions of Marcial and Catulus, and then focuses her attention on contemporary poets such as Miguel d'Ors, José Luis García de Martín, Luis Alberto de Cuenca and Enrique Badosa, among others, who work within this genre in the contemporary milieu. For his part, Fernández López develops his arguments concerning the elegy along similar lines, and pays special attention to the metapoetic aspects of this genre in such poets as Guillermo Carnero, Aurora Luque, and Angel González. Fernández López directs his attention to what the author terms the "diálogo necesario con la cultura del mundo grecolatino" (59), focusing on the recycling of such classical myths as Orpheus, Narcissus or Icarus in contemporary poetry. Rather than merely using the myths as a convenient thematic organizational ploy, this author ably demonstrates how a variety of Spanish poets utilize the myths and their named personages as a process of discovery in the contemplation of contemporary life. The Orpheus myth represents his prime exploratory node, and he utilizes the poetry of Guillermo Carnero and Antonio Colinas as prime examples of how one Classical myth is utilized as one more aesthetic resource available to the poets to illustrate contemporary concerns. The final essay by Conde Parrado utilizes Homer's Odyssey as the point of departure for a review of Spanish poetry that rework this story in contemporary form. It should be noted that this author does include in his study both male and female poets whose poetry enters into intertextual dialogue with this Classic work, but concentrates on those poems whose focus is Odysseus. However, he does indicate that the figure of Penelope also has inspired much poetry, but for reasons of time he was not able to develop it further.
The third and final component of this book is an extensive anthology of poems by more than one hundred contemporary authors including more than twenty women whose work reflects the conference themes, that is, epigram and elegy as well as Orpheus and Ulysses. There are poems by well-known poets such as Juana Castro, Jaime Gil de Biedma, Angel González, and Ana Rossetti, as well as those by poets of younger generations whose work is now becoming internationally known, such as Enrique [End Page 274] Barrero Rodríguez, Amalia Bautista, Elena García de Paredes, and José Luis Gómez Toré. Although each poet is represented by only a few poems, the anthology's strength is the creativity with which each of the poets dialogues with the Classical models and thus presents a showcase of talent within narrowly defined parameters. In addition to an overall index, one final element that enhances the value of this anthology was the editors' thoughtful decision to include a carefully constructed appendix that lists the provenance of each of the anthologized poems. With the original publication date, there is also listed any existing edition of the Obras completas, that the editors very knowingly identify as "habitualmente más accessibles," in contrast with elusive first editions that so often go out of print and are almost impossible to locate.
This anthology, carefully constructed and reflective of contemporary Spanish poetry's debt to Classical literature, will be a welcome addition to scholars of contemporary poetry in Spanish as well as comparative literature. The editors have indicated that they are currently at work on "una gran antología de poesía española contemporánea de tradición clásica; el material recogido hasta este momento supera ya los seiscientos poemas" (8). If this current anthology is any indication of the careful scholarship and insightful choices yet to come, we, like the faithful Penelope, shall await with fortitude and great expectation Ulysses's return in that expanded text.