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This review is taken from PN Review 211, Volume 39 Number 5, May - June 2013.

The Interrogator joan margarit, Strangely Happy, translated by Anna Crowe (Bloodaxe) £9.95

Joan Margarit has long built a reputation as one of Spain's leading poets and Catalan's chronicler of the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath. Strangely Happy collects work from two books since his 2006 selected Tugs in the Fog: Selected Poems (2006), Casa De Miserichordia and Misteriosament Felic. The titles suggest struggle and closure as age and mortality test how 'strangely happy' one can be in a house of misery. Invariably stripped of all inessentials, the poems here deal again and again with death, futility and failure. Whether mourning the death of a disabled daughter, dissecting the painful details of a divorce, or confronting his and everyone's mortality, Maragrit seldom flinches. His is a spare craft intensified by a severe eye for what the jacket copy acknowledges as the 'uncompromising materials of self-doubt, despair and death'. Most writers disagree if their work is called depressing. Hardy, whom Margarit has translated, and Hemingway and Celan, whom he alludes to, come to mind when reading poems for a night spent without sleep in a bare room in the company of a hooded interrogator.

Margarit, Professor of Structural Calculation at Barcelona's Technical School of Architecture for many years, is an exacting interrogator of life. As a poet who has been an architect he particularly relishes ars poetica pronouncements. Many find their place in these two books:

There is nothing poetic about poetry.

a good poem...however beautiful, has to be cruel
                                                       (from 'House of Mercy') ...


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