Que venga el poeta

Leon Felipe is another one of those Spanish poets whose lives were uprooted by the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, like Machado and Alberti, or who were killed, like Lorca, or died in prison, like Hernandez. Turbulent times indeed. Felipe managed to escape to Mexico where he lived out the remaining 30 years or so of his life.

This poem is about the disillusion of such tragic events as war and conflict (I guess of any kind) disrupting the poet’s vocation for the creative process of writing poems

Que venga el poeta.
Y me trajisteis aquí para contar las estrellas,
para bañarme en el río y para hacer dibujos en la arena.
Éste era el contrato.
Y ahora me habéis puesto a construir cepos y candados,
a cargar un fusil y a escribir en la oficina de un juzgado.
Me trajisteis aquí para cantar en unas bodas
y me habéis puesto a llorar junto a una fosa.

From <http://artespoeticas.librodenotas.com/artes/1022/que-venga-el-poeta-1949&gt;

There is a neat symmetry in this short and simple poem. The first four lines describe the poetic role, counting the stars, bathing in the river, drawing in the sand, all things with no objective purpose, but all things which bring some beauty into our lives. This is the poet’s role, his contract.

But the second four lines describe what the poet is actually asked to do – make clamps and padlocks, load rifles, and write out the judgement of a condemned man. All this might be literally Felipe’s experience fighting in the war, or it might be a general despair at the unpleasant tasks of life imposed on someone who is supposed to be a provider of art and beauty.

The final two lines again point up the distinction between the ideal and the real – the poet is supposed to be singing at the wedding, celebrating life and happiness, but he has been made to weep by the grave.

A sad poem, from a poet with a sad experience.

The Poetry Dude


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