There is no elixir of eternal youth, but at least we have literature, which protects youth in the brightness of the eyes. Víctor García de la Concha (Villaviciosa, Asturias, 1934) turns his eyes on, very blue, when he speaks of poetry, and that despite the fact that it takes a lifetime, all, dedicated to the study of letters. With that academic experience behind him, and with a passion that comes even further, he has created his particular “Breviary of Love” (Espasa), an anthology in which he gathers his 50 unforgettable love poems of Spanish literature .
—Affirms in the prologue of the book that love and poetry were born at the same time. Do you think there would be one thing without the other?
—There is poetry that is not loving, that it does not sing love, but other things. But certainly love and poetry are united. Even the boy who may seem farther from a poetic consciousness, when he falls in love, his tongue falls short. The tongue falls short! You need different words, different phrases, apart from gestures and loving delivery. And ours is a very rich language to sing love.
– It is a language inherited from Latin, which was inherited from Greek. Therefore, Latin poetry uses Greek poets, and Castilian poets use Latin poetry: Horacio, Ovid and Virgil are at the base of all this. In poetry as a whole, Spanish is a very rich language. And that without counting on the Arab influx, with Arab and also Hebrew jugs.
“Would you say it’s a perfect language for romantics?”
—To face love is a perfect language. And proof of this is that this whole book is full of Latin, Greek seeds … Our language sucks all the previous languages, and that is its richness. Although this is discovered in the study …
—It’s funny, because the first poem he has chosen, the “Romance de Fonte frida”, is of heartbreak: the story of a widow who rejects a donjuán.
—That in love poetry is constant: impossible love. Garcilaso falls in love with a married woman, Isabel de Freire, and sings her veiledly. Fernando de Herrera also falls in love with a married woman … And then there is the lack of love: Bécquer. His poetry is the result of two great disappointments. The disappointment first, of a girlfriend who leaves him, and the second disappointment, of a wife who betrays him. And Becquer transforms all that, transfigures all that: he is crying in pain and at the same time he is creating the most magical world possible, the magical world of Becquer. And that happens again and again until today.
– It is as if we were inspired more by the tragic thing of love: loss, impossibility.
– That is very fertile for literature.
– Sometimes it seems that even more than happiness, than joy.
“Joy and pain, there they are gathering.” There they are pairing and weaving. Poetry is often the fabric of that double game.
—The last poem of the book is by Octavio Paz, who died in ’98. There are no authors of this century. Are you not interested in poetry today?
“I didn’t do it for that, I did it for the beyond love.” I did it because the penultimate poem I chose, Neruda’s, has an ending that is curious: “Although this is the last pain she causes me / and these are the last verses that I write to her.” Neruda is beyond love, and this is open to continue writing poetry. This is what Octavio Paz later says in his poem “Beyond love.” He writes at the end: “Bread that tilts the scale on the side of the dawn, / pause of blood at this time and another without measure.” The poem is a pause of blood between this time and another time without measure: it is always open. Love will pass, but there is always beyond love. There is always something else. That’s what I reminded my wife: “Get old with me, the best is yet to come.”
—In the dedication of the book he writes “Omnia vincit love” (love conquers all). Is it a literary topic or a vital certainty?
“Yes, yes, I think so, of course.” It is true. In all these poems, that there are joyful ones, there are painful ones, there are those of a realized love or an impossible love, in all of them there is always love as the reference of everything one can live. Live and die for it. Well, that is felt in all the poems, even in the most casual.
“Has poetry helped you in your life as a refuge or spur?”
—Many times, how literature in general helps me.
—Is the passion for reading not diminish over the years?
“I am a lost music lover, and I hear the same songs again and again.” The same happens to me with reading: I read and reread and I find new things, new nuances, as in music. I mostly read studying, because I am a philologist and I like to get all the juice out of the paper.
“And have you discovered anything preparing this edition?”
—Releading, I found “The girl from Guatemala”, by José Martí. For me it was a discovery, the poem and the story it tells, which is rigorously historical. He speaks of a woman he knows in Guatemala, the daughter of a general very close to him. They both have a love affair, but Marti leaves for Mexico, marries, and later returns with his wife to Guatemala. And the general’s daughter commits suicide, throws himself into the river. Then, Martí writes this poem, which ends like this: «Shut up, at dusk / the undertaker called me. / I have never seen again / the one who died of love! » This was like that. At the funeral of this girl, in the background, without entering the cemetery, was José Martí.
—It was a rediscovery, because I knew Martí, I had studied it, but this poem …
—By the way: if I could resurrect someone for coffee with him, who would I choose?
-[Ríe a carcajadas] Let me think … I can’t doubt. Give me two.
-Of course. Tell me two
– If I had to choose two, one would be Teresa of Jesus.
-And the other?
“Because he achieved a miracle.” Because Lope has that absolutely crazy love life, but he writes the deepest religious repentance poems of Spanish poetry. And then he leaves with Marta de Nevares and will have her there: Marta’s bed and next to the altar, where she said Mass. I would choose Lope, Lope …
“I was very surprised to see Cervantes in the book, because he is always talked about as a mediocre poet.”
-Well let’s see. He says: “I who always hustle and reveal myself / because I seem to have a poet / the grace that heaven did not want to give me.” But hey, Cervantes wrote the sonnet to the tumulus of Philip II in Seville. That is a poem. It is true that he is also the only one. The only one along with the one I pick up in the book. But Cervantes deserves …
“A favor and a tribute, isn’t it?”
—You say so. And I make his statement mine. .