Europa: Selected Poems of Julio Martínez Mesanza
Born in Madrid in 1955, Julio Martínez Mesanza is among the most prominent of a generation of Spanish poets who came of age after the death of Franco. His work includes four editions of a single, expanding collection called Europa from 1983 to 1990; two other collections, Las trincheras (The Trenches) in 1996 and Entre el muro y el foso (Between the Wall and the Ditch) in 2007; and a volume of selected poems in 2007.
Europa: Selected Poems of Julio Martínez Mesanza includes versions of more than forty poems spanning the poet's career and features work that appeared originally in Boston Review, Poetry Northwest, Stand (U.K.) and other journals. It was supported by a Fulbright Senior Lectureship in Spain and the Witter Bynner Poetry Translator Residency at the Santa Fe Arts Institute.
Vivid, immediate, compressed, often violent, these poems have a lot to offer American readers and writers. Julio Martínez Mesanza presents the pastness of present things. Thanks to translator Don Bogen, that quality is available to us, with its qualities of urgency, terror, and redemption.
Work from Europa:
Horses Die in Battle Too
Horses die in battle too. They do it
slowly, as the wounds they accumulate
come from arrows that have missed their marks.
They bleed to death, their suffering noble
and silent. A look of superiority
and distance claims their motionless eyes,
while their ears must undergo the raging,
disproportionate agony of men.
Victim and Executioner
I am the one who falls in the first assault
at Normandy in the water and the sand.
I am the one who picks his man and shoots him.
Sacking the town, I saw the empty face
of an old man beneath my horse's hooves.
I am the one who lifts the crucifix
in front of the invaders when they charge.
I am the dog and I am the master's hand.
I am Aegisthus, Orestes, and the Furies.
I am the one on the ground, begging for mercy.
When everything around me is collapsing,
I think about artillery and maps,
about the perfect world of maps, and how
reality transforms that perfect world.
Someone picks a target, and someone
looks for reference points in the landscape--
the tower of a church, a mountain peak--
to gauge the levels with exact precision
before he lays out the trajectory.
At tables, those who use the formulas
to find the range, the proper charge and angle
immerse themselves in calculations.
The gunners start their work at the cannons
in a feverish, mechanical routine,
while the observers wait impatiently
to see the cloud that shows the first impact.
When the order to fire is finally given
everything is excitement and turmoil;
each man is responsible for his part
and no one is responsible for the wreckage.