"Estellés is more alive now than twenty years ago"

What is the secret of the popularity of the poetry of Vicent Andrés Estellés? 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, reveals no secret when he asserts that the key is "the popular language, demotic, mixed with his literary knowledge, because he was not illiterate".

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
01 April 2024 Monday 11:05
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"Estellés is more alive now than twenty years ago"

What is the secret of the popularity of the poetry of Vicent Andrés Estellés? 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, reveals no secret when he asserts that the key is "the popular language, demotic, mixed with his literary knowledge, because he was not illiterate". In addition, "with a language, let's call it street, it is able to transport us to Horace's Rome or to a part of Marc's poetry, or to make us feel that Marc is here... It resurrects the ancient poet and that this ancient poet should 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 it is shameless, bold, tells things as they are".

His poetry, he asserts, "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 the actuality demonstrates this with new publications during the ephemeris, but also the dedicated shows or even the political controversy. In addition to the biographical approach made by Pau Alabajos (Vicent Andrés Estellés. La veu d'un poble, Sembra), the publishing house Saldonar brings together in Oli calent del gresol de la vida the first three books by Josep Ballester, while 3i4 is still the final stretch of the publication of the revised Complete Work with volumes X and XI, and only one will be missing.

Pérez-Montaner, who had already dedicated several essays to him, participates with the most complete Estellesian anthology, Una tendresa oculta. Selected poems (3 and 4). What is it that they didn't have the previous ones? "I thought it was the ideal time to do it, for 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's a good read for those who approach it 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 did not connect with him until he was in the United States, where he lived in the 1960s and 1970s, when he received a bilingual Portuguese-Catalan anthology: "There were poems by Estelle I really liked them. Some fellow American poets wanted to do translations of Castilian 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 very much, because "he writes as we write, as the people speak, and they said that a poem of his, even if it talks about problems anywhere in Spain, reaches Kansas or Portland”. The power of the ultralocal.

Later, he was introduced to 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 an echo in his poetic work: "The names of film actresses appear , of events of the time, of the bullfighter Manolete... He collects and reports everything like a newspaper chronicler, as when he describes how Fuster, who was burned in effigy, is considered, written all in an almost shorthand way, as if I was writing a newspaper article". Josep Pla even said that he was a very good "prose writer in verse". In addition, for years he published there, under the pseudonym of Roc, some daily poems, fourteen rhyming verses in which he glossed over current issues with a light and popular tone with which he surely on the one hand deepened his mastery of metrics , and on the other he rinsed according to which themes outside his own work.

However, until now no great biography of the poet of Burjassot has been written, although Pérez-Monta-ner downplays it by remembering that "his poetry is studied a lot, more and more, and Fuster himself is not 'he had done a great biography until last year...', just as now the new biography of Pla has been presented, but there is the approach of Pau Alabajos to Estellés, "a dissemination book that is very good" .

Estellés' work, he says, "reflects life, his history and ours, from different perspectives", and "is very identifiable even though it is constantly renewed", between the sadness and the joy of living, as it can be seen for example in the Broken Chorus: "Few poems like this exist in European literature of the 20th century".

He is "the poet who has sung more than anyone in the city of Valencia, as in the Book of Wonders, a desperate song in the sad post-war city, undone, but it is a song of love", not to mention his monumental Mural of the Valencian Country, but even so it continues to raise the animosity of a part of the Valencians, "those who have always hated the Valencian, and they 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 renaissance of fervor for Estellés' poetry".