If there’s one thing me and Anna want to do with this blog, it’s expand your horizons when it comes to LGBT lit. So, in that vein, we also want to review and recommend some literature that you might not have thought about reading before, namely literature in languages other than English. And to kick this off, I decided to write a post about some gay Spanish poets.
I know, I know. Your first thought may be something along the lines of woah, this is pretty niche, I don’t know if I’m interested in this. But. Bear with me here (and also with the length of this post, my slightly rusty/clunky translating skills, etc, etc). I spent an afternoon down a rabbit hole (aka Wikipedia) just to find some gay Spanish poets (it’s a procrastination technique). Most of them don’t have English translations, so it’s gonna go like this: a little bio about the author, and then one of my favourite poems of theirs, which I’ll attempt to translate (or, where possible, provide a translation from the internet). Hence why I’m apologising for the length of this post and my translating skills before we even get started.
I really hope you enjoy reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it (and staring at the cost of actually reading some of these authors’ collections. No one should be charging upwards of even £20, not including shipping, for a poetry collection. No one), and let me know if this is something you would like to see more of!
Federico García Lorca
b. 1898, d. 1936
Federico García Lorca was a poet, playwright and theatre director. He was a member of the Generation of ’27, a group of poets who introduced ideas such as surrealism into Spanish literary circles in the mid-1920s. García Lorca was executed by Nationalist forces at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War and his body has never been found.
Antonio Gala is a playwright, poet and novelist. He was born in Brazatortas, but moved to Córdova at the age of 9. From the age of 15, he studied law at the University of Sevilla. On finishing his studies, he abandoned his plans to join the Spanish State Bar Association in an act of rebellion against his parents, instead entering into a monastery of the Order of the Carthusians. However, the rigid discipline of the order was not right for him, and he ended up expelled, whereupon he moved to Portugal and began to write.
Leopoldo Alas Minguez
b. 1962, d. 2008
Leopoldo Alas Minguez was a writer and poet, usually considered to be part of the Generation of the 80s. He was the great-nephew of the author, Leopoldo Alas, known as Clarín. He studied Italian philology, and was one of the most important authors of gay literature in Spain. He died at the age of 45 following pneumonia.
Collections: The Possession of Fear
Álvaro Pomba is a poet, novelist and activist. He was born in Santander and read Philosophy and Literature at the University of Madrid. He wrote his first poetry collection, Protocolos, in 1973, and four years later he moved to London to study Philosophy at Birkbeck College. That same year he published Tales of a Lack of Substance, a collection of short stories, many of them with gay themes. Pombo is also known for his activism as part of the Unión Progreso Y Democracia.
Collections: Protocolos (1973-2003)
Lucía Sánchez Saornil
b. 1895, d. 1970
Lucía Sánchez Saornil was a poet and militant anarchist. She began writing poetry at a young age, associating herself with the Ultraist movement of the early 20th century, composing under a male penname. In the early 1930s, she joined the anarchist movement, and later formed Mujeres Libres with two companions. After the defeat of the Second Republic at the end of the Spanish Civil War, she and her partner, América Barroso, fled to Paris, before returning to Spain in the early 1940s after Germany invaded France. She lived with América in Madrid and Valencia for the rest of her life, although their relationship was maintained in secret.
Collections: no collections, but some poems can be found here.
Ana María Moix
b. 1947, d. 2014
Ana María Moix was born in Barcelona in 1947. She was a poet, novelist, short story writer, editor and translator. She studied Philosophy at the University of Barcelona, and was a member of the Novísimos, a group of the youngest and most experimental poets in 1970s Spain, named for an anthology by José María Castellet. In the late 70s, she was part of the team publishing the journal Vindicación Feminista. In writing, she was able to counter the silence surrounding lesbianism in Francoist Spain, while avoiding censorship for her work. She died from cancer in 2014.
b. 1923, d. 2015
Carlos Bousoño was a poet, literary critic and professor of literature. He was born in Boal in 1923, but moved to Oviedo at the age of 2. Bousoño wrote his doctorate thesis on the poet Vicente Aleixandre, whom he would later share a long relationship with, their love letters made public after their deaths. He died in Madrid at the age of 92.
Collections: Selection of my Verses
Jaime Gil de Biedma
b. 1929, d. 1990
Jaime Gil de Biedma was born in Nava de la Asunción in 1929. He is a post-Civil War poet, but stopped writing poetry some ten years before his death from complications due to AIDS. During his life, he was open about being gay, particularly in his poetry. Allegedly, he was denied membership of the Spanish Communist Party, which was illegal at the time, because the Francoist regime could use his sexuality to threaten him if they discovered he was a communist.
b. 1902, d. 1963
Luis Cernuda was a poet and member of the Generation of ’27 with Lorca. During the Spanish Civil War, he travelled to the UK to give lectures, which would the mark the beginning of a lifetime of exile from his home country. He taught at Glasgow and Cambridge, before moving to the US in the late 1940s, and subsequently Mexico in the 1950s. He died of a heart attack in 1963 in Mexico City.
b. 1898, d. 1984
Vicente Aleixandre was born in Sevilla in 1898. He was a member of the Generation of ’27 with Lorca and Cernuda and his early poetry was highly surrealistic. In 1977, Aleixandre won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Within his circle of friends, it was known that he was gay, although he never publicly admitted it. He had a long-term relationship with fellow poet, Carlos Bousoño.
I hope this post introduced you to something new, and I hope I’ve managed to convince you to maybe go out and read more (if there’s one I would absolutely rec, and that is translated into English, it’s Lorca’s Sonnets of Dark Love). Are there any other poets you would include on this list?
P. S. If I have made any horrible mistakes in the translations, please let me know so I can update the post and not spend the rest of my life in ignorance.