Miguel Hernández’s “Idea of a Poem”


What is a poem? A beautiful affected lie. An insinuated truth. Only by insinuating it will a truth not appear a lie. A truth as precious and hidden as anything from a mine. One needs to be a miner of poems to see in its Ethiopias of darkness its Indias of light. A salt-wizened truth situated between blue and singing. Who sees that the sea in truth is white? Nobody. Nevertheless it exists, it flutters, it alludes in its sculpted spume to the color of the crescent moon. The clear sea—would it be as beautiful as its secret if it were suddenly clarified? Its greater beauty lies in its secrecy. The poem cannot present itself to us as either Venus or naked. Naked poems have only the anatomy of poems. And who could make something more horrible than a bare skeleton? Guard, poets, the secret of the poem: the sphinx. Let them learn to tear it away like bark from a tree. Oh, like the orange: what a delicious secret under its planetary circumference! Except in the case of prophetic poetry for which clarity is essential—because it does not try to illustrate sensations, or dazzle the mind with the lightning flash of a sculpted image, but rather to propagate emotions, to enliven lives–guard yourselves, poets, against fruits without skins, seas without salt. The poem has to work as with the Holy Sacrament. . . . When will the poet come with a poem in his fingers, like a priest with the host, saying “Here is GOD” and we will believe it?

Miguel Hernandez
(Orihuela, Circa 1933)

Translated by Ted Genoways


from The Selected Poems of Miguel Hernández, Edited and Translated by Ted Genoways. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2001. 2-3. Print.

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About mckenzielynntozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan is an aspiring poet in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She is presently an MFA candidate in Poetry at Western Michigan University, where she is the Layout & Design Editor and a reader for New Issues Poetry & Prose and is one of the Assistant Poetry Editors for Third Coast. She previously graduated from IU in May 2012, during which she was the Managing Editor for 42 Miles Press for two years, and assisted with reading for the university’s in-house publication, Analecta. Her work has appeared in various online venues, Analecta, and various independent publications elsewhere. View all posts by mckenzielynntozan

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