Rain outside. In the puddles

the gas light floats.

In the mud on the street

there’s a song buried.

Sailors from Antwerp,

from Cork and Rotterdam…

The drunk accordion

speaks English, German…

On the blade of a knife

the limelight flees into the sea.

(tr. Patrick Loughnane)

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Luís Amado Carballo (Pontevedra, 1901-1927) was, along with Manuel Antonio, at the forefront of avant-garde poetry in Galicia during the 1920s.

He also shares with Antonio the fate of having had just one collection published during his lifetime ( Proel (1927), O galo would follow the year after his death).

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Though his life and output were tragically brief, his poetry nevertheless resonated deeply with following generations. This ensured that his influence remained identifiable in the work of poets such as Aquilino Iglesia Alvariño decades later.

 

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Pontevedra at night, with modern lights.

Hilozoísmo, the style Amado Carballo is most identified with, rested somewhere between the traditional and the modern in Galician literature.

Though the poet didn’t follow the widespread use of free verse in avant-garde poetry across Europe, (usually opting for a traditional octosyllabic meter (such as in Taberna), his use of bold images and foreign words did reflect many of these movements.

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Galicia, due to the mountainous terrain between it and the rest of the Spain, was generally believed by Spaniards at this time to be isolated from the outside world. Amado Carballo can be seen to challenge this notion in Taberna.

The visiting sailors he describes bring both music (“the drunk accordion”) and their languages (“English, German”) to this Galician tavern. When one considers just how important and deep-rooted the maritime tradition has been in the history of the region– the question of just how many of these encounters may have taken place warrants consideration.

Though small in scale, surely such sustained contact would have left Galicia well in tune with the wider world (whatever about the rest of Spain).

 

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The house in which Amado Carballo lived (R), with Pontevedra’s Peregrina church in the distance.

Amado Carballo’s reference to Ireland also reflects a move against popular thinking.

Cork (an important region on the island’s south coast) isn’t presented through the Celtic or mythological lens almost universally used by Galician writers. Rather, it appears no different to the less-commonly referenced cities of Antwerp and Rotterdam.

The connection between the region and Ireland is therefore through their shared maritime traditions; and perhaps, like their fellow Dutch and Belgians, the need of their young men to go out to sea to make a living.