“Estellés is more alive now than twenty years ago”

What is the secret of the popularity of Vicent Andrés Estellés' poetry? In the year of his centenary, the poet and essayist Jaume Pérez-Montaner (l'Alfàs del Pi, Marina Baixa, 1938), an expert in his work, does not reveal any secrets when he assures that the key is “popular, demotic, mixed with his literary knowledge, because he was not illiterate.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
01 April 2024 Monday 10:32
5 Reads
“Estellés is more alive now than twenty years ago”

What is the secret of the popularity of Vicent Andrés Estellés' poetry? In the year of his centenary, the poet and essayist Jaume Pérez-Montaner (l'Alfàs del Pi, Marina Baixa, 1938), an expert in his work, does not reveal any secrets when he assures that the key is “popular, demotic, mixed with his literary knowledge, because he was not illiterate.” Furthermore, “with language, let's say street language, is capable of transporting us to Horace's Rome or to a part of Ausiàs Marc's poetry, or making us feel that Marc is here... It resurrects the ancient poet and that poet old man write again now, but in the style of Vicent Andrés Estellés.” And of course, there is also eroticism, “direct but at the same time healthy, because he is daring, shameless, he tells things as they are.”

His poetry, he assures, “is in full force and we would say that it has been resurrected, although in reality it has never disappeared,” but the fact is that “the figure of Estellés is more alive today than twenty years ago,” and today demonstrates it with new publications during its anniversary, but also the shows dedicated to it or even the political controversy. In addition to the biographical approach that Pau Alabajos has made (Vicent Andrés Estellés. La veu d'un poble, Sembra), the Saldonar publishing house brings together in Oli calor del gresol de la vida the first three books by Josep Ballester, while 3i4 He faces the final stretch of the publication of his revised Complete Works with volumes X and XI, and only one is missing.

Pérez-Montaner, who had already dedicated several essays to him, participates with the most complete Estellesian anthology, Una tendresa hidden. Poems escollits (3i4). What does it have that the previous ones didn't have? “I thought it was the ideal time to do it, because of the centenary, but also because we already had practically all of his poetry,” and in its almost 500 pages there is “the essential Estellés.” “It is a good read for those who come for the first time or for the fourth, fifth or tenth time, who want to read a different Estellés, but following the order from the beginning practically until now.”

Pérez-Montaner met Estellés thanks to Joan Fuster, but he did not connect with him until being in the United States, where he lived in the sixties and seventies, he received a bilingual Portuguese-Catalan anthology: “There were some poems by Estellés that I liked a lot. Some fellow North American poets wanted to make translations of Spanish poetry into English, I proposed Catalan poets and they liked the idea, with poems by Estellés, Riba, Espriu..." The Americans, especially William Stafford, liked it a lot, because "he writes as we write, as people speak, and they said that a poem of his, even if it talks about problems from anywhere in Spain, reaches Kansas or Portland." The power of the ultralocal.

Later, he showed up at the editorial office of Las Provincias, where Estellés worked, and they became friends. Because until he was forced to retire early, Vicent Andrés Estellés worked at the newspaper, for many years as editor-in-chief, and this journalistic task has resonance in his poetic work: “Names of film actresses appear, of events of the time, of the bullfighter Manolete... He collects it and reports it all like a press reporter, like when he describes how Fuster, who was burned in effigy, is considered, writing everything almost in shorthand, as if he were writing a newspaper article.” Josep Pla even said that he was a very good “verse prose writer.” Furthermore, for years he published, under the pseudonym Roc, daily poems, fourteen rhymed verses in which he glossed current issues with a light and popular tone with which he surely on the one hand deepened the mastery of meter, and on the other clarified according to what themes outside of his own work.

However, until now a great biography of the poet from Burjassot has not been written, although Pérez-Montaner minimizes this by remembering that “his poetry is studied a lot, more and more, and there had not been a great biography of Fuster himself until the year past...", just as the new biography of Pla has now been presented, but there is Pau Alabajos' approach to Estellés, "a popular book that is very good."

Estellés' work, he says, “reflects life, his history and ours, from different perspectives,” and “it is very identifiable although it is constantly renewed,” between sadness and the joy of living, as seen for example in Coral romput: “There are few poems like this in 20th century European literature.”

He is “the poet who has sung the city of Valencia more than anyone else, as in his Llibre de meravelles, a desperate song to the sad post-war city, defeated, but it is a song of love”, not to mention his monumental Mural of the Valencian Country, but even so it continues to arouse the animosity of a part of the Valencians, “those who have always hated Valencian, and justify it by saying that they are anti-Catalan. His anti-Catalanism is nothing more than a version of his hatred, or self-hatred, of the Valencian. “Estellés beats them, despite what they do. “There is a popular revival of fervor for the poetry of Estellés.”

Catalan version, here