Textual Crossings (I)

In the next few posts I'd like to examine four textual encounters I've come across recently in my research. These are moments when one writer cites the words of another in a way that blurs the lines of authorship in some way.

I. José Lezama Lima's "Coloquio con Juan Ramón Jiménez"

II. José Ángel Valente's "Al maestro cantor," a poem that cites Lezama but without naming him.

III. An essay by Valente in which he echoes language from Lorca's "Juego y teoría del duende" but without mentioning Lorca by name.

IV. Antonio Gamoneda's "Hablo con Blanca Varela," in which the Spanish poet reads through poems by Varela and uses images and phrases from his own poetry to illuminate hers.

I've known about most of these examples for a while, but only recently have they presented themselves to me as a significant cluster. Two of the examples include Valente, two Lezama Lima; three involve transatlantic encounters. All four have to do with the creation of the canon of "late modernism" in Spanish poetry.

I. "Coloquio con Juan Ramón Jiménez" (1938)

Lezama Lima was a young Cuban man in his twenties, virtually unknown at the time; Jiménez was a major poet. The Colloquium features a highly erudite dialogue between them. The remarkable element here is that Lezama puts words in the mouth of Jiménez that he did not recognize as his own.

This is the relevant quote from Juan Ramón:

"En las opiniones que José Lezama Lima 'me obliga a escribir con su pletórica pluma', hay ideas y palabras que reconozco como mías y otras que no. Pero lo que reconozco como mío tiene una calidad que me obliga también a no abandonarlo como ajeno [...]

He preferido recoger todo lo que mi amigo me adjudica y hacerlo mío en lo posible, a protestarlo con un no firme, como es necesario hacer a veces con el supuesto escrito ajeno de otros y fáciles dialogadores"

[In the opinions that JLL "forces me to write with his plethoric pen," there are ideas and words that I recognize as my own and others that I don't. But what I don't recognize as my own has a quality that forces me to not abandon it as that of another... I have preferred to accept everything that my friend attributes to me and to make it my own as far as possible, rather than protesting it with a firm no, as is necessary in the case of other facile interlocutors.]

This is quite extraordinary, for a poet as proprietary of his own word as Jiménez. It is also a foundational moment for Lezama, who had not yet published very much. Their dialogue consists of Lezama attempting to get Jiménez to accept the notion of an "insular" poetics--a concept which Jiménez views with suspicion. Lezama plays the role of the theorist of cultural exceptionality; Jiménez is the universalist. In staging this dialogue, Lezama is able to make a firm statement of his own poetics in sympathy and contrast with one of the most recognized poets of the Hispanic world.

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