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Joan Brossa

Glòria Bordons (Universitat de Barcelona)

A man totally given over to art and to artistic experimentation -that was Brossa's paradigm. He took it upon himself to seek the limits of artistic expression, and to discover whether such limits existed. His poetry and his plays (which are sometimes difficult to distinguish from each other) are completely anti-academic, seeking interaction whith the reader or spectator, whom Brossa wants to question and at times even to confront. His experiments in the field of poetry are notably innovative, especially in what are now considered his emblematic 'visual poems'. In the field of the theatre, his 'scenic poetry' stands out as an authentic precursor of present-day 'performances'.

Barcelona, 1919 - 1998. Poet, playwright and visual artist

Joan Brossa was the epitome of the avant-garde poet of the twentieth century. Largely unknown until the publication of Poesia rasa (Short Poetry) (1970) when he subsequently became an indisputable benchmark, all of his work was outstanding for its overwhelming interest in man and a continuous process of research. His words are the greatest exponent of this avant-garde spirit: "I regard research as a journey into the unknown, a plunge into the mirror of the imagination; I cannot therefore be sure where my present experiences are taking me or what I will think in a few years' time. For the time being, I will carry on pushing the usual means of perception to discover new spaces of sensitivity. I accept the past for the fact that it has brought me to the present, and the future depends on the present. I understand the poet Stephen Spender very well when he says that in life there is only 'my always'." (Interview conducted and translated by G. Picazo and J.M.G. Cortés, published in La creación artística como cuestionamiento, Generalitat de València, 1990).

Neo-Surrealism (1943-1950)

During the 1940s, in an era when closure and an art firmly rooted in the past were the dominant theme in Spain, he attached himself to a post-surrealism. When he began to write, during the Spanish Civil War (in which he took part aged seventeen), he did so out of a need to express his internal sentiments. This led to an interest in psychology and his beginning to seek advice on the process of writing. Through Enric Tormo, with whom he had become friends during his military service in Salamanca, he met J.V. Foix. And this relationship led him to Joan Miró and Joan Prats. Thanks to Joan Prats' magnificent library, Brossa gained an in-depth knowledge of surrealism and adopted its techniques for the free expression of the subconscious by means of what he termed hypnagogic images. Following Foix's advice, he transferred the content of these images to the structure of the sonnet. His first books, La bola i l'escarabat (The Ball and the Beetle) (1941-43) and Fogall de sonets (Hearth of Sonnets) (1943-48), are full of oneiric images, all intertwined through unconscious associations.

In 1947, thanks to his relationship with Arnau Puig, Joan Ponç and other friends, he began the adventure of Algol, which would later become the Dau al Set magazine. The desire to experiment also led him to write poems termed experimental, during the 1940s. Similarly, when the poet wanted to transcribe the free flow of dream, the sonnet was not sufficient. For this reason, short prose was forced on him. During the era of Dau al Set he published prose pieces in the magazine.

Similarly, he wrote the Proses de Carnaval (Carnival Tales) (1949) collection and the pseudo-novel Carnaval escampat o la invasió desfeta (Scattered Carnival or the Defeated Invasion) (1949) (collected in Alfabet desbaratat [Thoughtless Alphabet]), Empúries, 1998). These books contain non-narrative elements, which later appear in many of Brossa's works, such as the leaps into the void, the digressions or the biblical or oracle-like tone. Continue reading...

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