The verse had to come from inside him, from himself. Only in this way would it serve to give comfort to any person, “even the one who is 5,000 kilometers away; And it must also be valid for when you are 18, 45, 60 and 80 years old, being different people as you are; because, if it is well done, in a poem there are a thousand poems ”. That said about his clear poetry, daughter of emotion, Joan Margarit, perhaps the most popular bard of contemporary Spanish letters. He died this Tuesday in Sant Just Desvern (Barcelona), a victim of cancer at the age of 82, he was able to obtain titles such as Joana Y House of Mercy sales more typical of novels. Creator of a fully bilingual work in Catalan and Spanish, he won awards such as the Reina Sofía de Poesía and the Cervantes, in 2019.
Photogallery: The life of Joan Margarit, in pictures
“In poetry you cannot find anything outside; everything is inside you and there is also a lot of crap: resentment, foolish things … You have to know how to find the good and, in a second stage, transform it into words ”, he said, probably the result of the formula that he himself applied child, when he used loneliness to face the pain and misfortune that he was born with at dawn on May 11, 1938 in Sanaüja (Lleida), a few kilometers from where the Aragon front had just been broken, the beginning of the final defeat of the republicans, side to which it belonged family and spiritually.
Loneliness, its poetic seed, would be born without knowing it then, in those times of constant changes of residences and schools, of the death of a little sister due to lack of medicines in times of deprivation, including those of a mother, teacher, little given to express their affection and that the child mistook for heartbreak. Margarit always doubted that she had not inherited it. “Doesn’t my poetry respond to this difficulty in transmitting affection?” To have a home you have to win the war (2018), his frank memories of childhood and adolescence.
The other poetic spark always had the exact date and place in Margarit’s memory: a summer night in 1956, in front of a window, in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, where the family had moved two years earlier for work reasons of the father, an architect. . It was a poem dedicated to a high school classmate: “Love made me a poet, I wrote her the only poem of mine that I know by heart and the only one that I have never recited or will recite in public”, declared who was always very generous with the public reading, where he stood out for the modulations of a stentorian and frank voice, like his laugh.
There were no doubts at that time: his writings were in Spanish, influenced by an intense reading of Neruda, a poet who, he said, was about to devour him and from which it took him a long decade to free himself “from his excessive influence.” The relationship with the language was not easy. He made it explicit in Golden age, poem from his last book of verses, An amazing winter (2017): “The Civil War destroyed for me a series of authors who were imposed on me by terrible teachers. I think of Quevedo, Góngora … even Cervantes: The Quijote it was part of having lost the war ”, explained who received a bump in the Rubí of the 40s from a man in the middle of the street“ for speaking in Catalan ”.
The episode stayed there, perhaps it did not affect. Or if. The fact is that Margarit, with Catalan as her intimate and domestic language, began to write poetry in Spanish, which culminated, at just 25 years of age, with the publication of her first book: Songs for the choir of a man alone (1963), still with a Nerudian aftertaste, although, in the commendable prologue that accompanied it, Camilo José Cela spoke of a “metaphysical surrealist”. Domestic i was born (1965), Chronicle (1975) and Prediction for a barbarian (1979) would make up flagship titles of a poetry “with a certain packaging”, admitted who, also an architect, in 1968 was already a professor of Structural Calculation at the Barcelona School of Architecture. This specialty led him to participate in the continuation works of Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia, but also, as he loved to remember, in the rehabilitation of the precarious emigration buildings of the 1950s and 1960s in Sant Roc, La Pau or El Besòs, where, he stressed, he met “humble fantastic people.”
Calculation of structures, pure pain, was the title that in 2005 he gave to one of his best collections of poems (Serra d’Or award), at the peak of his career as a bard of contemporary Catalan letters. The change of language had occurred, after almost two decades of writing in Spanish, in the early eighties, after the poet Miquel Martí i Pol, of whom Margarit would translate Dear Martha into Spanish, it will encourage you to write Catalan. The proposal coincided with the fact that he lived his poetic production “in a state of dissatisfaction”, which would translate into a future work with almost no youthful poems. In any case, it jumped into Catalan from The shadow of another sea (1981). “Every cathedral is built from a crypt and there was mine. I started to write at 16, but until 40 I did not reach my own voice: no great poet has been if he has not written in his own language, “he summarized in a metaphor typical of his profession.
The poet Margarit erupted. Everything seemed to fit; Suddenly, the memories of the Chinese poetry books that her father had at home appeared: Tu Fu, Lao-Tse … “That of the moon, the river and one … I stayed …”, evoked Margarit, verses from where learned textual concentration; The Jacint Verdaguer that his grandmother recited by heart and that fascinated him by that well-known immense solitude that the poet’s work exuded also appeared. And, of course, the Joan Maragall for whom the center of the poem is the other. Thus, Margarit published six books in just four years, all loaded with “excess poetic enthusiasm”, something that began to remit from Winter sea (1986), Carles Riba award. He, Carner, Foix and Joan Oliver would make up the most direct readings and influences, all sewn together by another of the recurring themes in his poetics: his isolation.
Two poems in the pocket
Margarit always carried a poem in progress in her pockets. “Within a week, at the most, I will bring two, which will be the poem in Spanish, but it is not a translation: they both make their way; the spark that inspired the first I continue in the other; In the long way to its final version I will detect errors in one or the other that will modify both; yes, the first one always comes out in my language ”, he stated. And with this methodology, from the beginning of the nineties he put his poetic maturity on track, with titles such as France Station (1998, in a directly bilingual edition) or Joana (2002), the one that he used to recommend to those who started in his poetry, a reflection of the death of his daughter and the few times he wrote quickly: “In hot, no, I did it red hot: yes, in that moment of pain Poetry was no use to me, I knew I would never write anymore ”, he justified himself.
Over the years, Margarit’s verses became more stark, shortening the distance between life and work, between the person and the poet, with the maximum rhetorical humility of which he was capable, giving him that patina of authenticity that was translated into endless of readers, symbolized in one that a few years ago approached him in a Madrid museum after recognizing him and who told him that his verses had saved him in a very difficult moment in his life. “Poetry and music”, said the poet, “are the main tools of consolation that human beings have in their loneliness, that loneliness to which they are always doomed, even if they have their closest loved ones, the first belt of affections ”.
Margarit’s popular and literary recognition had two key years: the first, in 2008, when House of Mercy, pure sadness, combined both the National Poetry Prize and the Generalitat. In 2019, the two greatest recognitions of the almost twenty he received would arrive: the Reina Sofía and the Cervantes. Although the latter was the fifth Catalan author to obtain it, he was the first fully bilingual, Catalan and Spanish, since that time. France Station. He explained, as always with simplicity, his case. “One is maternal; the other is acquired and I want it: I am not going to renounce the two languages, whatever the politicians say, “he said when the award was ruled, before those who wanted to see a political reading of its award in full relaxation of relations between Catalonia and Spain for the process. Always with an independent spirit, and although in 2010 he raised in his proclamation of the Mercè Festival in Barcelona that perhaps Catalonia should “profoundly change the relationship with this Spain”, the president of the Generalitat took a day to congratulate him on Cervantes.
Margarit relativized the incident, happy in a poetry that protected him like a house, parallelism that he always made between both concepts from an advice given to him at the time by his prestigious colleague José Antonio Coderch: “A house should not be independent, nor made in vain, neither original, nor sumptuous ”. And he added: “I’ve always thought that same thing about poetry.”
Nor did he regret that the coronavirus prevented the ceremonial delivery of the Cervantes or the speech (“Now there are more urgent things to think about than delivering a Cervantes. In hospitals, for example,” he said last April, eight months before receiving it from the hands of the Kings in a private act). And much less did he worry about death: “You have to wait for it and that’s it. It is not an important ceremony. Making a poem is much more difficult than dying. Not everyone can do it, a poem. Dying is within everyone’s reach ”.
The reader of Margarit can now turn, in her absence, to the verses of a poem by Joana: “Death is nothing more than this: the bedroom, / the bright afternoon at the window, / and this radio cassette player on the table / -as muted as your heart- / with all your songs sung forever. / Your last breath is still inside of me / still in suspense: I won’t let it end ”.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.