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Enrique Juncosa Bay of FlagsA poet of the world at large

Review by Corinna Lotz

Enrique Juncosa is the poet of dialectical contrasts and juxtapositions.  He floats from the agonisingly personal to a delightful haiku summing up natural beauties.  A few brief lines capture the frisson of disparate cities, the mysteries of Africa, the richness of India, the surreality of London in cinematic riffs and takes.

These are complex poems but presented without pomp and ceremony – simply offered to share: life, loves and global wandering laid bare.

This first dual-language edition, Juncosa’s sixth book, shows him widening his scope, swooping and homing in on a special moment in time and place, with a highly pleasurable precision.

after two
and cold days,
it rains.

I look at the grey buildings
and I talk to you
as I cross the River Liffey.
The streets are full
of Saturday crowds.

A new CD of Massive Attack
has just been released:
hypnotic hums
with trapped butterflies.
this sweet narcosis.
Dazzling syllables
and yellow hurricanes.

The universal, the movement of outer space flows through the body in a seemingly effortless way in Terra Lucida, for example:

I breathe
amid black clinging constellations.
Stars and clouds
in an ocean of air.

My float floats
changed into light.

I am a film:
heads of buried models
pecked by swift green

Then, a beach in India
that will always be my home.

A white dog
keeps my company
and we both fly without wings.
Unknown faces protect me.

Everything is strange and familiar.

I see myself emanating fire.

I walk under waterfalls of ice
towards the orange spirals.

I am the sky
since I embrace myself and become it.

Enrique JuncosaJuncosa has always revelled in the ornate mysteries and possibilities of language, from Spanish Baroque lyricists like Luis de Góngora to the international Modernists and experimental poets like Edith Sitwell. He has a deep knowledge of his native Castilian writers but also English and American figures such as the art critic and poet Frank O’Hara. But in the end, what gives his work its impact is its spareness, its lack of pretension and searing frankness.

In his introductory essay, Irish poet and translator Michael Smith refers to the work of Thomas McGreevy, who like Juncosa, was an art gallery director. And rightly so. The acutely visual quality of his writing, initially shaped by his island childhood, most surely evokes the Imagist traditions of the early 20th century.

Juncosa embraces today’s world as it presents itself – seen through a sensibility steeped, not only in the adventures of Modernism, but his own life-path, from Balearic roots to sophisticated global art curator and critic and above all, the poet as traveller.

As Smith notes: “. . . I think he is a cosmopolitan poet, nationalistically rootless despite his Mallorcan birth and upbringing. He has thrown himself open-mindedly on the world at large, willing to confront whatever comes his way. … Ultimately, the poems are celebratory, of the world in all its incomprehensible strangeness and beauty.”

In our cruelly tumultuous times, Juncosa’s espousal of life as it is, refracted through his historically aware personal odyssey, provides generous soul food.

25 May 2010

Bay of Flags & other poems by Enrique Juncosa. Translated from the Spanish by Michael Smith. Dedalus Press €13.50 paperback

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