Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The Poetry of Antonio Machado

Stephen Akey writes about the poetry of Antonio Machado

Big themes: God, belief, love, death, solitude, time, Spain. But Machado wrote about small things as well, and my favorite poem of his concerns something of monumental, so to speak, insignificance: the common housefly. Despite its tightly rhymed octosyllabics and half-lines, the tone of "Las moscas" is relaxed and conversational; Machado might have titled it "My Life with Flies." The life he describes from infancy to fidgety boyhood to dreamy youth to disillusioned adulthood is so unspectacular as to be all lives, even if the family parlor mentioned in the third stanza happened to be in a palace in Seville. (The Machados were impecunious but highly cultured.) In contrast to the archetypal imagery of the seasons of life and their attendant objects, Machado particularizes the flies with their hairy legs bouncing off the windowpanes. Where we would expect to find disgust, however, he evokes something like enchantment. There's enough real horror out there (and inside our heads) without having to work up any literary anguish over some houseflies buzzing around. Besides, in their acrobatic ubiquity, they really are rather amazing. How can you not look?

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