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English, Español, Love Letters, Poem, Poesia Sensual, Salinas Pedro

My voice because of you – Pedro Salinas

Closing Night by Donata Wenders

Closing Night by Donata Wenders

Letters to Katherine Whitmore:

The secret epistolary of the great poet of love,1932-1947 was at last published in 2002, twenty years after Katherine Whitmore’s death, through the efforts of any, especially his son and daughter Pedro Salinas and solita Salinas de Marichal, who in permiting its publication also followed the wishes of their late recipient, professor Whitmore, who detailed this wish in an elegant, candid, and moving composition written in june of 1979. The four hundred page book contains the most significant 151 of 354 letters written to Whitmore. The entire collection, as well as other letters, writings, documents, and photographs of Pedro Salinas are preserved at Harvard university.

The poems in La voz a ti debida, are a profound, personal biography of the poet and his nameless lover. In the book title, “voice” is the poet’s voice; “you” his lover. But who is “you”? Because his affair is secret, unknown to his family, Pedro Salinas neither identifies the mysterious “you” nor denies critical analysis by friends who assert the woman is his imaginary, idealized beloved as in a medieval troubadour song, Dante’s Comedia, or Cervantes’s Quixote.
But his lover is real. Her name is Katherine Whitmore. Suddenly available is a huge documentation illuminating both poem and affair. The original poems and his signed letter comprise a second, richer biography of the poet and his lover.

My voice because of you (La voz a ti debida) is known as the great book of love poems in the Spanish language. With the publication of Salinas’s letters to Katherine Whitmore, we discover another book of poems “loocked in prose”. In my voice there are four essential element in it’s formation: the poet, the beloved, the letters, the poems. Without the beloved no book. Without the letters to the beloved, well, who knows? Salinas’s letter poems are fabled poetry unperceived as poetry, though both Pedro and Katherine recognized the poem in the letter.

In letter 58 from Madrid, January 23, 1933 “in the margins” Pedro confirms Katherine’s observation: the letters to her are poems:

My letters seem to you poetry.
You reconcile me with the all
Will you always think them poems?
They may be less, I fear.
I’d like my poetry to serve you always.

Katherine Whitmore and Pedro Salinas remained in contact- sporadic as their actual meetings were- until almost the very end of the poet’s life.They met for the last time in 1951 at Smith College where he had come to give a lecture. On that final occasion, she writes in her memoir, she once again asked him if he understood why their relationship had had to become platonic and he replied, ruefully, that he didn’t, that “a different woman” would have felt privileged to continue the affair. So true, she replied (or possibly only thought); but “I am only what I am”- effectively bringing the circle back to its “magical” origin, by quoting to him from the begining of the first poem he had written to her.
The memoir concludes by remembering one evening soon after that last encounter, when she was preparing to teach his poetry to her Contemporary Spanish Literature class, something she had trained herself to do with equanimity ( and one could hardly not teach Salinas poetry in such a class). Uncharacteristically, she became overwhelmed by nostalgia and by a feeling of great love. She reread all Pedro’s letters, she wept, longing to be able to tell him (as she had not even tried to do in that recen,final meeting), how much she loved him, how much she valued what he had given her, how “gloriously he had enriched [her]life”. And, she says, she then felt his presence in the room, palpably. When a very short time later she learned that Salinas had just died, she was convinced that she had indeed been with him one last time, and that for one last time they had assured each other of their extraodinary love.

Hey, let’s get away

Hey, let’s get away
from being so much you and so much me.
Leave your body asleep,
leave my body at your side,
leave them.

Leave your name and mine,
leave what pained us
and let us take a break
from ourselves, with ourselves;
Let us pretend that we were
one, but two others.

Already without the body or the name
let us try on forms,
beings, to see if we can live
better in something else.

Let us try on trees;
two trees that, even with
very separate trunks,
will look for each other on top,
find each other with their leaves,
brush each other with their flowers,

Let us try on waves
that run one over the other,
separate and playing,
until, in the warm sand
they stop being double.

And if you have any material left
let us go further. We can
be two silences, so together
that no one senses that this
surrounding silence
is double, because two voices
becoming quiet, they forged it
to hear each other better.

And if you want more, let us
be light,
you a ray, me another ray,
you one half, and me the other
of this light, that in order that it be
us, it needs us
and it contains us.

And still we can
flee further:
pretend that we no longer exist,
in a prenatal world
where being together is
to be immensely lost
one in another, indivisible,
like the sea and the sky, before
the Lord separated them.

And later you will see how happy
is the return to ourselves,
to find myself with you,
with me, with the pain,
with your voice and with my name.

You’ll see, you’ll see, what a miracle
it is to see each other, to touch each other,
you’ll see what a revelation
it is to see ourselves, to see ourselves again
in these homely faces
where the soul lived within us.
To pretend that we stopped
loving each other. How true
this love will always be to us!
What a partner
will be born, so happy,
so secure, of this goodbye!

(Poem English Translation by Amber Wantman)

Mira, vamos a salir

Mira, vamos a salir
de tanto ser tú y ser yo.
Deja tu cuerpo dormido,
deja mi cuerpo a tu lado,

Deja tu nombre y el mío,
deja lo que nos dolió
y vamos a descansar
de nosotros, con nosotros;
vamos a jugar a que éramos
los mismos, pero otros dos.
Ya sin el cuerpo ni el nombre
vamos a probarnos formas,
seres, a ver si vivimos
en otra cosa mejor.

Vamos a probarnos árboles;
dos árboles que aunque tengan
muy apartados los troncos,
se buscarán por arriba,
se encontrarán con sus hojas,
se tocarán con la flor.

Vamos a probarnos olas
que corren una tras otra,
separadas y jugando,
hasta que en la arena tibia
se les acaba el ser dos.
Y si aún te sobra materia
vamos más allá. Podemos
ser dos silencios, tan juntos
que nadie sienta que ese
silencio de alrededor,
es doble, porque dos voces
callándose, lo forjaron
para entenderse mejor.

Y si quieres más probemos
a ser luz,
tú una llama, yo otra llama,
tú una mitad, yo la otra
de esa luz, que para serlo
a los dos nos necesita
y nos contiene a los dos.

Y todavía podemos
huir más allá:
fingirnos que no existimos,
en un mundo prenatal
en donde estar juntos sea
un inmenso estar perdidos
uno en otro, indivisibles,
como en el mar y en el cielo, antes
que los separara Dios.

Y luego verás qué alegre
es el regreso a nosotros,
el encontrarme contigo,
conmigo, con el dolor,
con tu voz y con mi nombre.

Verás, verás, qué milagro
es mirarnos, es tocarnos,
verás qué revelación
es vernos, volver a vernos
en estos rostros fatales
donde el alma nos vivió.
Por jugar a que dejábamos
de amarnos, ¡qué verdadero
nos va a ser siempre el amor!
¡Qué pareja
nos va a nacer, tan alegre,
tan segura, de este adiós!

Love Poems by Pedro Salinas: My Voice Because of You and Letter Poems to Katherine Whitmore


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