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Spanish Social Poetry Overview

It seems reasonable to say that Spanish social poetry of the middle of the twentieth century may be characterized as poetry of tragic sound. This is visible from the very titles of poetry collections of those years; for example, La Soledad Cerrada by Gabriel Celaya, Tierra sin Nosotros by Jose Hierro, Los Muertos by Jose Luis Hidalgo. The themes of loneliness and death were central in all Spanish poetry of the mentioned period (Ferrán 50). However, in the work of representatives of Spanish social poetry, these themes are depicted in a peculiar way. Loneliness for them is not a metaphysical and eternal property of “existence”, but the real disunity of compatriots who recently fought on opposite sides of the barricades. These are the Spaniards, deprived of Spain, and Spain that lost its sons. From this perspective, Spanish social poetry tends to show “the history of the redemption-divinization of man as a collective entity” (Ascunce 129).

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This perception of an individual as a part of the great and invincible brotherhood of people is perhaps the most important feature of Spanish social poetry of Spain in the post-war years. It becomes the leading characteristic of the works of one of the greatest social poets of Spain – Blas de Otero (Barrow 216). The poems of his first book, Cantico Espiritual have a solidly expressed religious aspect (Flasche 310) – many of these poems are, in essence, prayers addressed to God. Indeed, all of Otero’s poetry of those years is permeated with deep and sincere religiosity. It should be mentioned here that the utilization of symbols is among the primary characteristics of Spanish social poetry, as well as the “use of expresses of archetypal value” (Ascunce 128). It was important because archetypal expressions are typical of popular culture, and in the Christian world, God is primarily the light that shows the way for people. Otero used this symbol to depict the divinization of man and to make this idea clear to the audience.

And yet, from the very beginning, it is not divine contemplation that dominates in his poems, but the confusion of feelings. Otero’s poetic consciousness is bifurcated; the poet appeals to God, but his gaze is riveted to earthly sorrows and troubles. In the book Angel Fieramente Humano (de Bengoechea 53), there is no desire to soar to divine heights; here, even an angel is humanized, which, again, shows the presence of a symbolical aspect in the social poetry. The denunciation of reality culminates in the poem Crecida. A sea of blood floods everything around the poet, and he plunges into this bloody stream (Otero). A terrible silence, screaming about the injustice of the world around us, is the leitmotif of the last section of the book. But the author’s thought does not stop there. Not despair but vitality and joy must prevail on earth. How can we breathe and live if the spaces around were not full of joy and love? – the poet concludes his collection with this rhetorical question. This refers to another crucial feature of Spanish social poetry – it aims to tell “the story of the definitive conquest of the new earthly paradise” (Ascunce 129).

To conclude, the above discussion is dedicated to the peculiarities of Spanish social poetry with an emphasis on Blas de Otero as one of its most notable representatives. It was found that these crucial peculiarities are as follows. First, it is the utilization of symbolism with a smooth transition to the use of archetypes. Second, it is the depiction of an individual as an integral part of a collective entity and his or her divinization. Third, it is the idea of establishing a new earthly paradise.

Works Cited

Ascunce, José Angel. La Poesía Social Como Lenguaje Poético. Universitad de Deusto, 1986. Centro Virtual Cervantes.

Barrow, Geoffrey. “Autobiography and Art in the Poetry of Blas de Otero.” Hispanic Review, vol. 48, no. 2, 1980, pp. 213–230.

Bengoechea, Javier de. “Blas de Otero y la poesía social” en Zurgai, monográfico Poetas vascos (diciembre de 1990), pp. 53–54.

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Ferrán, Jaime María. “The Poetics of Populism in Spanish Social Poetry.” Anales de la literatura española contemporánea, vol. 34, no. 1, 2009, pp. 45–62.

Flasche, Hans. “Claves Para un Estudio de la Poesía de Blas de Otero.” Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, vol. 69, 1992, pp. 309–313.

Otero, Blas de. “Crecida.” Trianarts. 2014.

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