February 27, 2021

Constantino Bértolo publishes his first book of poems at the age of 74 and does it in Galician


The title of the first book of poetry by Constantino Bértolo advances his intentions: O great poem. “As froitos do tempo as lives back in houses and marriages villages places and vinete and seven parishes thirty and igrexas and chapels thirty cemiteries seven pazos a castle and three forts houses [Como frutos del tiempo las vidas se esparcen en casas y caseríos aldeas lugares y veintisiete parroquias treinta y dos iglesias y capillas treinta cementerios siete pazos un castillo y tres casas fuertes]”, he writes with alert breathing. Epic of origin, practically cosmic song, omnivorous, the work, made by the author between his 71 and 73 years, is the return of one of the most significant editors of recent Spanish literature, now retired , to the native country: Los Ancares, in eastern Galicia.

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“I identify Navia de Suarna with a dimension of collective memory”, explains Bértolo to elDiario.es. He was born in that mountain town in 1946, although he grew up halfway between Navia and Lugo. At the age of nine he emigrated with his family to Madrid. The spoken language, and the hearing, were left behind. But not the written one, at least in print. “I always say that I discovered that I was Galician when I arrived in Madrid. I continued reading in Galician all my life. Until my encounter with Ferrín’s work changed everything, including the way I saw poetry,” he adds. Behold the prehistory of Or great poem (Chan da Pólvora, 2020), signed with the family name Tino de Féliz, and whose air verse between biblical and beat drink above all – he confesses – from two sources: Lineage, by Méndez Ferrín himself, and the political, psalmistic poetry of the Chilean Raúl Zurita.

These are some of the wickers of a poem, divided into six songs, that inaugurates the world. “All clinging to words. // E chegan // As verbs that give me and life chegan by Abrente // They cross the white mountains and the drunken rivers They walked by thousands of roads they jumped a thousand regos arrabuñado thousand mountains slept a thousand luas [Todo espera la llegada de las palabras // Y llegan // Las palabras que dan nombre y vida llegan por Abrente // Cruzan las montañas blancas los ríos ebrios / Caminaron por miles de caminos saltaron mil surcos arañaron mil montañas durmieron mil lunas]”, he says in the first. Because in Or great poem there is, after all, a program, that of “writing poetry aloud.”

“The dominant tone of complicity in Spanish poetry from the State irritates me quite a lot. Intimate lives, winks at friends …”, he theorizes about one of the nuclei of his proposal, “I was looking for a loud voice. Like Whitman, like Neruda. And that loud voice exists in Galician poetry. In Chus Pato, in María del Cebreiro, of course in Ferrín, there is an epic breath. Perhaps because behind it a political will, a collective push, acts behind it. In addition, whoever speaks in a voice high assumes a responsibility. I wanted that responsibility to be there. ” This search and his partial but increasingly habitual return to his native Navia –after a heart attack and his retirement as director of the Caballo de Troya publishing house– led him to writing. And to various origins: the communal family and that of poetry.

Bértolo, graduated in Hispanic Philology in Madrid in the 60s, entered literature through verse. Two of his poems appeared, alongside Vázquez Montalbán or Félix Grande, in the Anthology of young Spanish poetry, published in 1967. “I suppose I stopped writing because I did not find enough echo. Also because I began to military in communism and its cultural policy,” he recalls. Where it continues. His recent works include selections from Lenin’s texts -The revolutionary who did not know too much (2012) – and from Marx – Knocking on the doors of the revolution (2017) -, both with extensive, documented and useful forewords.

Although he continued to be a regular and attentive reader of poems, it was not until 2016 that he gave birth to his practice again, with the four compositions of the plaquette In summary, in Spanish and dated between 1972 and 2013. His professional work had previously taken him through the publishing territory, for which he directed Debate between 1991 and 2003 and later Caballo de Troya, in his day home of some of the most interesting narrative in Spanish and advanced, that of Marta Sanz, Elvira Navarro, Damián Tabarovsky or Mario Levrero or, translated from Galician, Manuel Darriba, Alberto Lema or Xurxo Borrazás

Poetry as a Baptism of the Real

His reunion with Navia de Suarna was, however, the key. The need to write a poetry of communal optics was born again. “I come to choose your voice to the lingua that you roubarois da longa noite I come to be born in the lingua of Curros Rosalía Pondal Ferrín María do Cebreiro Chus Pato Manuel María Alberto Lema Cordal Ánxel Johán Olga Novo Cáccamo Celso Emilio Pallarés ou Forcadela [Vengo a escuchar vuestra voz a lengua que me robaron los ladrones de la larga noche Vengo a nacer en la lengua de Curros Rosalía Pondal Ferrín María do Cebreiro Chus Pato Manuel María Alberto Lema Cordal Ánxel Johán Olga Novo Cáccamo Celso Emilio Pallarés o Forcadela]”, he writes as a self-framing in a tradition. They are not the only proper names of Or great poem, full of place names and anthroponyms. “Yes, I give myself the pleasure of naming the mountains, the people, the places, almost like a baptism,” he clarifies.

The book, also crossed by humor and tragedy, amazement and sensuality, like a materialistic litany, finally celebrates common belonging, subalternity. Political in a strong sense, just as Heaney dug with his pen, O great poem “é o ferro quento e bato na forge É o sacho co that I dig A fouce coa que sego A rexa no plow O pau co que barexo A canle coa que I rego At table where I sit to party or bread and vineyard Or poem what are you or what fostes and what will we be [es el hierro que caliento y bato en la forja Es la azada con la que excavo La hoz con la que siego La reja en el arado El palo con el que vareo El canal con la que riego La mesa donde me siento a compartir el pan y el vino El poema es lo que sois lo que fuisteis y lo que seremos]”. The poem as a tool, also to force reality.” In Spain the future disappeared. The triumph of postmodernity is evident in that only the present exists, and the loud voice disappeared from poetry. It hardly occurs in advertising. The language in Spain does not create community “, he considers. Against that spirit of the time is that he wrote his first book in Galician.

Confined to his home in Madrid, his new job is about to come off the press, Who we are: 55 books in Spanish from the 20th century. He will do it at the Periférica publishing house. “It was commissioned by Julián Rodríguez, its founder, shortly before he died [lo hizo en junio de 2019]. The challenge was also not to go beyond the two pages on each title, “he recalls,” which allowed me to re-read the 20th century. Confinement even helped me to make it happen. “Once he’s out on the street, Bértolo will concentrate on his next project: thinking about Stalin.” I think that, as a communist, one is obliged to try to explain what that was. It is not enough to escape. ” Humanism and terror, a Merleau-Ponty classic subtitled Essay on the Communist Problem. “Maybe that’s the right angle of entry into the question,” he says. But it will take at least two years.

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