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This review is taken from PN Review 165, Volume 32 Number 1, September - October 2005.

SOMETHING PERFECTLY SERIOUS ANTONIO MACHADO, Border of a Dream: Selected Poems, translated by Willis Barnstone (Copper Canyon Press) $17.00

In 1917, twelve years before his celebrated trip to New York, the nineteen-year-old Federico García Lorca made a pilgrimage with his class to the home of Antonio Machado. Machado himself was only forty-two at the time. A widower who lived alone in a rural Andalusian city and taught French in a public high school, his first three books, Solitudes (1903),Solitudes, Galleries, and Other Poems (1907) and Fields of Castilla (1912), had already begun to change Spanish poetry forever. Machado, like Miguel de Unamuno, Juan Ramón Jiménez and other writers of Spain's Generation of '98, turned away from the excess of Spain's baroque masters and wrote poems that included the common speech of the people. He wrote about rural towns in the south of Spain, far from Madrid's literary circles, and his prosody included the folklore and popular songs of the Spanish people.

Lorca would continue Machado's programme of using Spain's rich tradition of canciones anóminas (popular songs) in his poetry, but Lorca never fully sloughed off the influence of Góngora or the baroque excess of Calderón. Lorca's is a poetry of rhapsody, of exclamation points, of bold metaphors and surprising images. They are poems in which nearly every line calls attention to itself. Machado's poems whisper. The lines are almost self-effacing, as if a reader could come to the end of the poem, look up at the lines he had just read, and find nothing but ...


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