- This Ghostly Poetry: History and Memory of Exiled Spanish Republican Poets by Daniel Aguirre-Oteiza
Antonio Machado, Daniel Aguirre-Oteiza, Exile, Hauntology, Juan Egea, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Luis Cernuda, Memory Studies, Max Aub, Spanish Poetry, Tomás Segovia
Monographs on Spanish poetry have become an endangered academic species. This Ghostly Poetry should be saluted as a valuable lifeline to that vanishing genre. As an investigation on lyric poetry in general, and on Spanish exilic poetry in particular, this is undoubtedly an ambitious book, and it does accomplish several critical feats. First, it deploys the hermeneutic potential of what, following Derrida, has been called hauntology to examine the writing of poets that the country's 1936–1939 civil war forced into exile. It also intervenes in the beleaguered memory/history debate that has taken over the country's sociocultural and political landscape since the early 2000s. Finally, it identifies a distinctive quality in poetic texts that doubles as reading practice, what Daniel Aguirre-Oteiza calls poetic memory, a term suggestively defined as "a verbal fabric that is often self-reflexive as well as claim-subverting" (7). A solid theoretical-conceptual framework and close attention to the materiality of the poetic texts studied are this publication's added strengths.
The introduction functions as an effective and sophisticated exposition of the book's core objectives. To challenge grand teleological narratives of national history and literature could be seen as the most prominent. Poems written in and about exile are the verbal artifacts that allow for disruptions in, and subversions of, a literary history that has long relied on continuity and limits itself to national borders. Exilic poetry, then, presents both an interruption and a decentering. The authors studied in This Ghostly Poetry are shown to be offering their distinct versions of that spatiotemporal dislocation. [End Page 118]
Chapters one and two constitute the first part of the monograph, and they expand on the book's master tropes and guiding concepts. The first one finds substantial support for the author's nonteleological understanding of national literary history in sources distant and recent, from Ernst Bloch and Walter Benjamin to more contemporary literary scholars like Julián Jiménez Heffernan. The second chapter centers on the process of rewriting the nation—on rewriting it poetically, that is. Aguirre-Oteiza stresses the links between nation and lyric through the reading of poems by Miguel Hernández, César Vallejo, León Felipe, and Pablo Neruda. Such linkage is always presented as substantially different from the way history and prose tether memory to national and cultural identity. Poetic voice is the distinctive property of the lyric this section underscores.
The second part of the book consists of close readings of several texts by well-known writers of the aforementioned Spanish diaspora of 1936–1939. Juan Ramón Jiménez, Luis Cernuda, Max Aub, and Tomás Segovia are the "case studies" (11) covered in chapters four through seven. As they progress, the chapters also move from more to less studied figures in the national poetic canon. A coda dedicated to Antonio Machado brings the book to a close, although the Sevillian poet makes several ghostly appearances throughout the text.
Each of these chapters combines differently the amount of attention paid to a specific poem and to the poet's complete exilic corpus. They also differ somewhat in how much they factor each writer's biography into the analysis of their work. Chapter four, on Juan Ramón Jiménez, is the most multidisciplinary, since it takes as its chief object of study a heterogeneous archive of photographs, press clippings, and journal entries (among other materials) included in Guerra de España, the poet's unfinished project on his exilic experience. The better-known poem "Espacio" also receives ample commentary in this section. The next chapter, on Luis Cernuda, begins by reviewing the varied uses of the opening verse of a single poem, "1936," and then proceeds to engage with many of the texts in which Cernuda made exile...