La fuerza viva by Alejandro Simón Partal

La fuerza viva. Alejandro Simón Partal. Valencia: Pre-Textos. 2017. 56 pages.

The motifs chosen are related to everyday nature. The poet Alejandro Simón Partal moves throughout this work of a precise and careful setting to the extent necessary to make us a part of the plot. What can one say about a book that privileges the categorical conviction of not dying of love from the epigraph itself? That welcoming verse belongs to Wisława Szymborska: “No one in my family has ever died of love.” The quote from the Polish poet intertwines with Partal’s proposal and corresponds on many levels. With descriptive patience and serene formal purity, he goes about articulating all that moves and lives fully within La fuerza viva [The living force]. 

La fuerza viva received the Arcipreste de Hita Poetry Award in 2017 and arrived on shelves in Spain as a publication of Pre-Textos. The bibliography, by the author from Málaga, who holds a PhD in Hispanic Philology from Madrid’s Complutense University, is comprised of the poetry collections El guiño de la chatarra [The wink of the scrap] (2010), Nódulo noir [Node noir] (2012), and Los himnos abdominales [The abdominal anthems] (2015). As a critic, he has published A cuerpo gentil [Without a wrap] (2017), an investigation of the poetry of Juan Antonio González Iglesias.

Alejandro Simón Partal gives us a collection of experiences that in no moment transmits deception. We know that openness and sincerity don’t have the stylistic range; however, in La fuerza viva, this old contest is resolved effectively and affectively. That which we claim to highlight has special importance in the poems that favors the annotations of life and in the references that could be crossed out from autobiographies. It is a risk that runs with those proposals of experiential material. In what does that living force exist that we see so clearly on the cover? It could reside in the genuinely human, in figures with blood relation (like Partal’s own father: “To my father, a very living force”), in his city and in the possible episodes of placing in the living itinerary of the person who writes from gratitude: “Quiero insistir en este día de enero / bajo este sol despistado que cierra / la jurisprudencia de lo humano. / Agradecer como agradece esa rama / que crece desde el cemento / creando una grieta de vida / donde sólo se esperaba grieta” [I want to insist in this day of January / beneath this absent-minded sun that closes / the jurisprudence of that which is human. / Being thankful like that branch is thankful / that grows from the cement / creating a crack of life / where only a crack was expected].

In La fuerza viva, the re-reading of some already classic, poetic voices and many others that shaped the birth of the Spanish 20th century can be perceived in a living conversation with contemporary poets that Partal lists as an epilogue: in English and French (Alice Oswald, Anne Carson, and Yves Bonnefoy) and in his maternal language (Vicente Núñez, Piedad Bonnett, Eloy Sánchez Rosillo, J. M. Villalba, Antonio Lucas, Carlos Marzal, and Pedro Villarejo). And I would dare add to his list José Watanabe, an indispensable poet from whom he could drink his slow rhythm and specular vision. 

The reading of the first poem brought me to a nonexistent scene in Footloose. It made me think about Kevin Bacon and his antagonist, in a musical street scuffle to catch the attention of Lori Singer (or of Julianne Hough, with her powerful eyes and her attractive tan, in a remake, 27 years later). It’s a scene, that of the poem and of the movie from the 80s, that gestures in successive, sensitive, and subsequent fleeing frames: “Se vacilan y golpean mientras van / hacia sus motos – cuando marcan veinte / no es veinte; contacto para ellos es solo arranque” [They sway and strike each other as they walk / to their motorbikes – when they hit 20 / it’s not 20; contact for them is only the start].

La fuerza viva is a book, meticulous in its diction; however, it suffers from some verses that sound harsh to the ear, (“Sueñan un despertar / que más que interrupción es sueño” [They dream an awakening / that more than an interruption is a dream]; “Siempre tarda más en desaparecer / lo que no sabemos si amar” [What we don’t know whether to love / always takes longer to disappear]; “lamería la energía” [I would lick the energy]; “Esto que hay hoy” [What there is today]). The dissonance weakens the book’s prevailing rigor. Unlike these isolated cases, the enjambment manages to take root and keeps us very attentive. This occurs in the second stanza of “Son solo unos pocos” [They are only a few], 13 lines of rhythmic punctuation and fluidity accomplished in first person. 

Small acts stimulate scant celebrations. I see it clearly in the text, “Raft, etc.”: sharing some tomatoes with a bit of oil, then, could represent an epic for those who love in company, drinking coffee and reading Alice Oswald. The poet doesn’t explicitly define this encounter nor the gender of the companion: he only sketches the coincidence, suggests it. He doesn’t exhaust it.

It’s necessary to state something perhaps explicit but not always confessable: La fuerza viva is a love story. It verges on some theoretical principles explained by Erich Fromm in his well-known work The Art of Loving, specifically in the preface and in the first chapters. This is the way I perceive it because everything is said with admiration but without sentimentality, with disciplined distance. Love as knowledge and as force: “Saben amar porque aman lo concreto / y posan sus manos sobre lo concreto” [They know how to love because they love what is concrete / and they rest their hands over what is concrete]. Partal, we sense, prefers to offer affective remittances without cultivating “sex-appeal.” In other words: the experience of loving that is evident in his poetry. 

The love that Partal seeks is that which is achieved in adulthood, that which is cultivated with accumulated and assimilated stories, seen in perspective – in a high angle shot – to value them, and above all to communicate them and to make us coparticipants, allowing us to be taken away “like all that occurs at a medium distance.” Alejandro speaks to his father, almost always – always? – as in a conversation taking place hastily over some beers (not in a soliloquy or posthumous discussion before the funeral farewell). Alejandro doesn’t wait for an answer because he knows that he remains attentive, in a concealing silence. That company, as we have understood it, is not a rhetorical device to generate a fictitious return of the parent.

By referring to the poet, we do not long for a death from heartbreak, like the son of Lola Flores. To die in life because of love or from love (in either case it doesn’t matter) is also allowed.


Néstor Mendoza

Translated by Alex Soderfelt


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LALT No. 3
Number 3

The third issue of LALT features the debut of our permanent section devoted to Indigenous Literature with writing in languages from Mapudungun to Tzotzil, as well as remarkable short stories from Cristina Rivera Garza and Yoss, the rising star of Cuban science fiction.

Table of Contents

Editor's Note

Translation Previews and New Releases



Featured Author: Cristina Rivera Garza

Dossier: Yoss

Indigenous Literature




Dossier: Eight Chilean Poets

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