Francisco Brines: "I don't mind having my birthday, but if I lose consciousness, may my life end"

The Valencian writer Francisco Brines, one of the most prominent contemporary poets in recent Spanish history, died this Thursday in Gandía at the age of 89 at the Hospital de Gandía, where he was urgently operated on for a hernia in the early morning of May 15. This interview was granted to EL ESPAÑOL in 2November 3, 2020.

When to Francisco Brines They asked him for a title for his latest anthology, he replied: “Entre dos nadas” (Renacimiento, 2017). Says the last Cervantes that the poem is the struggle to “reveal some portion of the mystery of life”, the “scratch on the great enigma” in search of a “glow”.

After so many words offered to the question of creation, it is clear to him: “We are a parenthesis between two nothing”. Brines (Oliva, 1932) is closing his. That is why it is so exciting to witness the struggle of that voice that starts, one by one and in the silence of the room, the words that now follow. It is as if they came from far away, as if the poet had finally caught the “mystery”.

After receiving the news that the great prize for Spanish literature was his, he began to think about his mother. In Brines’s poetry, the mother is the metaphor for the beginning and the end. One of his poems draws the death like a kind of crossing in the middle of the sea. She looks at him “very fixed, from the boat, on everyone’s trip to the fog.” Now, in this instant, look at him sharply.

-Tell me about her.

-I was authoritarian, but with arguments. That taught me to live in a certain way. Both she and my father always respected my literary vocation, although he would have wanted me to follow other desires. In the end, they accepted it. They saw that, in me, that vocation was really necessary. They would have liked to see this award.

Brines is grateful for the “generosity” of the award, for which he has great respect. It is awarded by “very important writers and readers.” What makes him most excited is that a Cervantes serves to make himself known, year after year, among “that huge number of readers that are being born in all countries.”

-What was your father like?

-A man interested in material life – dedicated to the orange trade – but absolutely respectful of the life of the spirit. This is how he showed himself to me. He never told me: “Paco, dedicate yourself to this or that.” He let me choose my path. He was aware that my choice, poetry, gave me the greatest happiness.

-They were hungry and post-war days. Did having a son who wanted to be a poet scare you?

-I don’t think they thought about that … Even in the most modest times, there is food to live on. They knew that the important thing for their son was to feed on the spirit. In that sense, a poet child should make all parents happy.

– Poetry was something totally foreign to his family. How did you fall in love with reading?

-I liked well-expressed words. Reading gave me feelings, experiences and knowledge. It made me a more respectable person. And I considered that a lot because respectability is, ultimately, the settlement of a new life. I am happy that this “new life” came to me through poetry.

-You grew up in a Spain that taught young people “formation of the national spirit.” Was it, in a way, a stimulant to read, write and think the forbidden?

-I read what fell into my hands. That chance of reading gave me a great vital and thought experience. That is why I greatly respect chance and take shelter in the shadow of it.

The vocation

Brines is uncomfortable talking about his own poetry. “It’s as if a surgeon is being asked to operate on himself!” He often jokes. Years ago, he was asked for a definition of his “poetics” and he turned to the vocation scene.

It was such that: Paco is a young man who obediently meditates in a Retreat House that the Jesuits have in the Valencian countryside of Alascuás. It is inside a room that overlooks a “very wide garden”. Feel the spirit “tormented by hostile spiritual exercises.” Then, the boy looks out the window and sees how “nature lights up after a sudden spring storm.”

Scrutinize the color of the palm trees, in the rose bushes of the promenade and perceive the aroma of the orange trees. “It seems that all life is in this weakened smell,” he thinks. At sunset, a poem is born. The first poem. The boy has been the “magical creator of the afternoon” and, therefore, he feels it as “the most beautiful of his life”.

Over time, Brines believes that that poem was definitely bad and that it suffered from the excessive influence of Juan Ramon Jimenez. But what does that matter? “The emotion of the result found was never so great as in those years. The illusion of creation has never been so real to me again ”, he wrote as an adult in the introduction to one of his poems.

At that moment – Brines was eighteen years old – there was an exchange that would change his life forever: he shoved those beliefs into a corner and replaced them with that “unknown word” that is poetry. The scene sums up exactly that depth of his verses, that religious search for the absolute with no other creed than that which is born of the human.

The creation

– Have you ever said that the poet does not have to be more sensitive than someone who is not. That disproves a widespread topic.

-The poet expresses the same thing that many other people feel. The difference is in the expression and in the creation. It is a matter of demand and knowledge. The poet tries little by little. If you can express a difficult experience confidently and accurately, you will greatly appreciate writing for allowing you to do so.

-Reading to him, one can see that you are a firm defender of the “what is lost is sung” that you coined Antonio Machado. Is it difficult for you to write about bliss?

-Yes. I think it is more difficult. When you are happy, you usually do not write. It lives! And it intuitively expresses that happiness, leaving the writing a bit out of the way.

-Poetry is a gift, but sometimes it makes the sufferer suffer. Has it given you more light than darkness?

-Yes. It has given me more light than darkness because I have loved the literature of others. I have wanted to do my own literature. At times, readers and the writer that I am have agreed.

Last trip

Poetry was for Brines a “magical experience”, “only then comparable to the sexual use of the body.” Sensuality and homosexual love made him, from a very early age, a free and uncomplexed poet. Brines drew the paths of the flesh without the demands for demands that absorb the present. He wrote what that inspiration so difficult to describe was dictating to him. “It is almost never the will that chooses,” said the poet about those verses that the interior forced him to do.

Alexander duke -poet friend of the interviewee- thus defined the theme that has occupied Brines for decades: “The love for art, childhood, the landscape, the touch of the skin of a desired body and a sense of universal brotherhood through weather”.

– It is usually framed in the generation of 50, the poets children of 1936. Do you have memories of the war?

-Yes. We had to leave by boat from Alicante to go to Marseille. There we spent several months of the first year of the war. Later, when the nationals entered San Sebastián, we crossed the border and settled there. We wanted to get to Oliva, but we couldn’t until it was all over. Here that journey ended and here the final journey will end. I’m doing it now.

-How is life on board that last ship?

-I’m 88 years old. They are many. I don’t know how many I will get. I am willing to reach all that is as long as I have a conscience. If I lose it, I would like life to end in me, to be extinguished like a candle. For me, life has been a candle that has given little light, but it was a light that burned and defied the wax of the body. I’m waiting for the candle to go out at any moment.

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