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Juan Ramón Jiménez (1881-1958)


Spanish poet who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1956. Jiménez made his birthplace, Moguer in Southern Spain, famous by his series of prose poems of a young writer and his donkey, Platero y yo (1914, Platero and I: an Andalusian Elegy), one of the classics of modern Spanish literature. Jiménez's early work was ornamental, romantic, and often filled with dreams of love. During his second period, from 1917, he wrote "naked" poetry, in which the images were reduced to their essence. A central theme was the oneness and beauty of the world.

"Platero, if you were to come to the kindergarten with the rest of the children, you'd learn the alphabet and you'd draw pothooks.You'd know as much as the donkey in the waxworks—the friend of the mermaid, the one wreathed with cloth flowers seen through the glass that shows her, all pink, flesh-color, and gold, in her green element—and you'd know more that the doctor and the priest in Palos, Platero." (in Platero and I, translated by Stanley Appelbaum)

Juan Ramón Jiménez was born in Moguer, the son of Victor Jiménez y Jiménez, a prosperous wine dealer, and Purificación Mantecón y Lopez Parejo. Jiménez began to write early, producing his first poems at the age of seven. He attended a Jesuit Academy in Cádiz (1891-96), and then studied law at the University of Seville, showing there an interest in painting. However, Jiménez soon abandoned his studies, and also stopped painting, to devote himself entirely to literature.

Jiménez's first two books drew from the fin de siècle decadence. In 1900 he was invited to Madrid by the poets Francisco Villaespesa (1877-1935) and Rubén Darío (1867-1916), who had seen his verses in Vida nueva, a Madrid review. Darío, a Nicaraguan who lived long period of his life in Spain, had a deep influence on Jiménez's work. He became a member of the modernist literary circles and founded two literary reviews, Helios (1902) and Renacimiento (1906). Helios appeared for only one year, but it has much cultural-historical importance due to Jiménez's work.

When Jiménez's father died in 1900, he fell into a depression and returned to Moguer. By 1914, the family had lost most of their property. Jiménez's preoccupation with death lasted the rest of his life. Poetry, the experience of beauty, became for him a means of struggling against nothingness. To recover from his first bout of mental illness, Jiménez was sent to a sanatorium in France. For a period he lived in the Madrid home of his principal doctor. Between the ages 24 and 31 he published nine volumes of poetry. Later he also revised early verses, trying to find perfection of expression, but knowing he would never reach it. Among the early collections were Almas de violeta, Ninfeas, both from 1900, Rimas (1902), Arias tristes (1903), Jardines lejanos (1904), and Pastorales (1905). These works reveal the poet's mastery of metaphor and skill in capturing impressionistic images of nature. Impressionism also fascinated him in painting and he often listened Beethoven's VIth symphony and piano sonatas.

From 1905 to 1911 Jiménez lived in Moguer and wrote several collections of poetry. In Elejías puras (1908) and Baladas de primavera (1910) Jiménez continued to experiment with different meters. He moved to Madrid in 1912, translated with Zenobia Camprubí Aymar, a Puerto Rican educated in America and Spain, the work of the Hindu poet Rabindranath Tagore. Jiménez's the popular Platero and I, a pastoral prose poem, dates from this period. The 1917 edition of the book bore the subtitle "Elegía andaluza" (Andalusia Elegy). Platero follows the narrator on his trips to town and to countryside, its silent company is a contrast to his impessionistic thoughts. Its name ("silvery") refers to its color. The donkey is "small, thick-coated, soft; so spongy on the outside you'd say he was all of cotton, boneless. Only the jet mirrors of his eyes are hard as two black-crystal scarabs." After Platero's death he visits its grave and asks, "do you still remember me?"

In 1916 Jiménez sailed in pursuit of Zanobia Camprubi to New York, and married her. On the honeymoon Zenobia read her husband translations of American poets. This was the first crucial sea voyage in his life – the second happened in 1948. The sea, which led his thoughts to nothingness, led to publication of  Diario de un poeta recién casado (1917). Many verses from this period sound almost like prose. Eternidades meant a new direction in Jiménez's literary production. He decided to return to the simplicity of his earlier poetry. In Belleza (1923) he contemplated the writer's relationship to beauty.

Jiménez worked from the 1910s for the next twenty years as a critic and editor at various literary journals. Juan Guerrero Ruiz (1893-1955) became his lifelong friend and worked as the secretary of Jiménez's magazine Indice, in which many of the writers of the Generation of 1927 made their appearance. His influence was seen on the early works of Vicente Aleixandre, and on other members of the Generation of 1927; in the 1920s Jiménez also met in Madrid the young Federico García Lorca, who studied law at the university.

In the early and mid-thirties, Jiménez's unique position as a kind of supreme literary judge came into public debate. From 1923 to 1936 he did not publish any books of new poetry and broke with many of his loyal friends and protégés, among them Rafael Alberti (1902–99). After Pablo Neruda became a center of attention and the first edition of his Residencia en la tierra (1933) gained a huge success, Jiménez expressed his critical views on Neruda's poetry (Perfume and Poison: A Study of the Relationship between José Bergamín and Juan Ramón Jiménez by Nigel Dennis, 1985, p. 77). To keep his solitude, he would say to people who phoned him, "Juan Ramón is not at home today." When Buñuel, Dalí, and Lorca visited him in Madrid, he said that he saw in them the trio of the future. Afterwards they thanked Jiménez by calling him a son of a bitch in a letter and dragging his whole work through the mud, including Platero y yo.

After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the Republican government appointed Jiménez honorary cultural attaché to the United States. From 1939, when Franco's forces won control of Spain, he remained abroad. For a period in the late 1930s, Jiménez had a residency in Cuba. In his introduction for La poesía cubana en 1936, he pointed out the influence of Walt Whitman, Edgar Lee Masters, Robert Frost, and Carl Sandburg on Cuban poets. At that time Jiménez regarded Frost and E.A. Robinson as America's most important poets. Moreover, in his Moguer library Jiménez had copies of two of Masters's collections of poetry: The Great Valley from 1916 and Toward the Gulf from 1918. He was also familiar with Spoon River Anthology. Between  January 1939 and October 1942 he lived in Coral Gables, Florida, and moved then to the Washington are. In 1951 Jiménez settled with his wife in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he lectured and gave classes at the university in Río Piedras. However, he never considered himself a writer in exile, but a servant of poetry. In 1956, the same year he won the Nobel Prize, his wife died. Jiménez never recovered and died in San Juan on May 29, 1958.  

Jiménez's poetic output was immense; he considered his whole oeuvre to be one huge unfinished poem, which he tirelessly rewrote. In Tercera antología poética (1957), his poetic summa, he collected 720 poems from all periods. Jiménez's other works include Sonetos espirituales 1914-1915 (1916), Piedra y cielo (1919), Poesía en verso 1917-1923 (1923), Poesía en prosa y verso  (1932), Voces de mi copla (1945), Animal de fondo (1947). La estación total (1946), which appeared in Buenos Aires, was ignored in Spain. Jiménez's last book was Dios deseando y deseante (1949, God Desired and Desiring), a testament and identification with all that is beautiful and creative in nature. As a Platonist, Jiménez believed in a universal consciousness that existed apart from individual consciousness. Colors and music were central to his work. In one poem Jiménez compared music to a "naked woman, running wildly in a clear night."

For further reading: Juan Ramón Jiménez en su obra by Enrique Díez-Canedo (2007); Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century, Vol. 2, ed. by Steven R. Serafin (1999); Self and Image in Juan Ramón Jiménez by J.C. Wilcox (1986); Perfume and Poison: A Study of the Relationship between José Bergamín and Juan Ramón Jiménez by Nigel Dennis (1985); Word and Work in the Poetry of Juan Ramón Jiménez by M. Coke-Enguidanos (1982); Vida y obra de Juan Ramón Jiménez by G. Palau de Nemes (1974, 2 vols.); Juan Ramón Jiménez by H.T. Young (1967); Circle of Time by P. Olson (1967); La obra en prosa de Juan Ramón Jiménez by M.P. Predmore (1966); Estudios sobre Juan Ramón Jiménez by R. Gullón (1969); La segunda época de Juan Ramón Jiménez by A. Sánchez-Barbudo (1962); The Selected Writings of Juan Ramón Jiménez by H.R. Hays (1957)

Selected works:

  • Almas de violeta, 1900
  • Ninfeas, 1900
  • Rimas, 1902
  • Arias tristes, 1903
  • Jardines lejanos, 1904
  • Pastorales, 1905
  • Elejías puras, 1908
  • Elejías intermedias, 1909
  • Olvidanzas, 1909 (ed. Francisco Garfías, 1968)
  • Las hojas verdes, 1909
  • Elejías lamentables, 1910
  • Baladas de primavera, 1910
  • La soledad sonora, 1911
  • Pastorales, 1911
  • Poemas májicos y dolientes, 1911
  • Melancolía, 1912
  • Laberinto, 1913
  • Platero y yo, 1914 (illustrated by Baltasar Lobo)
    - Platero and I (translations by Eloïse Roach, 1957; William and Mary Roberts, 1956; Antonio T. de Nicolás, 1978; Stanley Appelbaum, 2004)
    - Harmo ja minä (suom. Tyyni Tuulio, 1957)
  • Estío, 1915
  • Sonetos espirituales 1914-1915, 1916
    - Spiritual Sonnets (tr. Carl W. Cobb, 1996)
  •  Diario de un poeta recién casado, 1917 (rev. ed., Diario de poeta y mar, 1948, 1955)
    - 'Something So Close,' 'I Took off Petal After Petal,' 'Cemetery,' 'In the Subway,' 'Deep Night,' 'Author's Club,' 'Walt Whitman,' 'An Imitator of Billy Sunday,' 'Wrong Tim,' 'In New York,' 'Lavender Windpanes and White Curtains,' 'Remorse,' 'Night Piece' in Lorca & Jimenez, Selected Poems (tr. Robert Bly, 1973) / Diary of a Newlywed Poet: A Bilingual Edition (translation by Hugh A. Harter, 2004)
  • Poesias escogidas (1899-1917), 1917
  • Eternidades, 1918
  • Piedra y cielo, 1919
  • Jinetes hacia el mar/J M Synge, 1920 (translator, with Z. Camprubí de Jiménez)
  • Segunda antolojía poética (1899-1918), 1922
  • Poesía, en verso, 1917-1923, 1923
  • Belleza, 1923
  • Unidad, 1925
  • Obra en marcha: diario poético, 1928
  • Sucesión, 1932
  • Poesía en prosa y verso, 1932
  • Presente, 1934
  • Canción, 1935
  • La estación total con las canciones de la nueva luz, 1936
  • Política poética, 1936
  • Verso y prosa para niños, 1937
  • Ciego ante ciegos, 1938
  • Españoles de tres mundos, 1942
  • Antología poética, 1944
  • Voces de mi copla, 1945
  • La estación total con Las canciones de la nueva luz, 1946
  • El Zaratán, 1946
  • Diario de poeta y mar, 1948 (new version of Diario de un poeta reciéncasado)
  • Romances de Coral Gables, 1948
  • Animal de fondo, 1949
  • Dios deseando y deseante, 1949
    - God Desired and Desiring (translated by Antonio de Nicolás, 1987)
  • Fifty Spanish Poems, 1950 (translated by J.B. Trend)
  • Tercera antología poética, 1957
  • El Zaratán, 1957 (illustrated by Gregorio Prieto)
  • Selected Writings, 1957 (translated by H. R. Hays)
  • Libros de Poesía, 1957 (ed. Agustin Caballero)
  • Sonetos espirituales, 1914-1915 (ed. Ricardo Gullón)
  • Primeros libros de poesia, 1959  (ed. Francisco Garfías)
  • La corriente infinita: crítica y evocación, 1961 (ed. Francisco Garfías)
  • Por el cristal amarillo 1902-1954, 1961 (ed. Francisco Garfías)
  • El trabajo gustoso; conferencias, 1961 (ed. Francisco Garfías)
  • Primeros libros de poesía, 1960 (ed. Francisco Garfías)
  • Cuadernos, 1960 (ed. Francisco Garfías)
  • Three Hudred Poems 1903-1953, 1962 (tr. Eloïse Roach)
  • Cartas: primera selección, 1962 (ed. Francisco Garfías)
  • Primeras prosas 1890-1954, 1962 (ed. Francisco Garfías)
  • El Modernismo / Notas de un curso, 1953, 1962 (eds. Ricardo Gullón and Eugenio Fernández Mendez)
  • Libros inéditos de poesía, 1964 (2 vols., ed. Francisco Garfias)
  • La colina d elos chopos 1913-1928, 1965
  • Estética y ética estética, 1967 (ed. Francisco Garfias)
  • Forty Poems, 1967
  • Antología poética (1989-1953), 1971 (ed. Eugenio Florit)
  • Lorca and Jiménez: Selected Poems, 1973 (chosen and translated by Robert Bly)
  • El andarín de su órbita. Selección de prosa crítica, 1974 (ed. Francisco Garfias)
  • Jiménez and Machado, 1974 (translated by J.B. Trend and J.L. Gili)
  • Critica paralela, 1975 (ed. Arturo del Villar)
  • La obra desnuda, 1976 (ed. Arturo del Villar)
    - The Naked Book! (trans. Dennis Maloney, 1984)
  • Leyenda, 1978 (ed. A. Sánchez Romeralo)
  • Historias y cuentos, 1979 (ed. Arturo del Villar)
  • Sevilla en Juan Ramón Jiménez, 1981 (ed. Jorge Urrutia)
  • Prosas criticas, 1981 (ed. Pilar Gómez Bedate)
    - Stories of Life and Death (translated by Antonio de Nicolás, 1986)
  • Antología poética de Juan Ramón Jiménez (1898-1953), 1981 (ed. Eugenio Florit) 35 Poemas del mar, 1981 (ed. Luis Jiménez Martos)
  • Juan Ramón Jiménez en Cuba, 1981 (ed. Cintio Vitier)
  • "Isla de la simpatía, 1981 (ed. Arcadio Díaz Quiñones, Raquel Sárraga)
  • Política poética, 1982 (ed. Germán Bleiberg)
  • Poesía, 1982 (ed. Emilio de Armas)
  • Poesias últimas escojidas (1918-1958), 1982 (ed. Antonio Sánchez Romeralo)
  • Tiempo y espacio, 1982
    - Time and Space: A Poetic Autobiography (translated by Antonio de Nicolás, 1988)
  • Antología poética, 1983-1985 (3 vols., ed. Germán Bleiberg)
  • La realidad invisible (1917-1920, 1924), 1983
    - Invisible Reality (translated by Antonio de Nicolás, 1987)
  • Poesía en prosa y verso (1902-1932), 1984 (ed. Zenobia Camprubí)
  • Autobiografía y autocrítica, 1985 (ed. Arturo del Villar)
  • Guerra de España, 1936-1953, 1985 (ed. Angel Crespo)
  • Antología comentada, 1986 (ed. Antonio Sánchez Barbudo)
  • Cuadernos de Zenobia y Juan Ramón, 1987-1993 (vols. 1-2; 4-8, ed. Arturo del Villar)
  • Light and Shadows: Selected Poems and Prose of Juan Ramon Jimenez, 1987 (translated by Robert Bly et al.)
  • Seleccion de poemas, 1987 (ed. Gilbert Azam)
  • Antología poética, 1987 (ed. Javier Blasco)
  • Poesia, arbol joven y eterno, 1988 (ed. Carmen Bravo-Villasante)
  • Antología poética, 1988 (ed. Carmen Jiménez and Eduardo Márquez)
  • Y para recordar por qué he venido, 1990 (ed. Francisco Javier Blasco)
  • Selección de prosa lírica, 1990 (ed. Francisco Javier Blasco Pascual)
  • Metamórfosis, 1990- (4 vols.,  ed. Antonio Sánchez Romeralo)
  • The Complete Perfectionist, 1997 (edited and translated by Christopher Maurer)
  • Verso y prosa, 1991 (ed. Esperanza Ortega)
  • Cartas: Antología, 1992 (ed.  Francisco Garfias)
  • La estación total con Las canciones de la nueva lu (1923-1926), 1994
  • Diario de un poeta reciencasado: 1916, 1998 (ed. Michael O. Predmore)
  • Unidad, 1999  (ed. Diego Martínez Torrón)
  • La realidad invisible, 1999  (ed. Diego Martínez Torrón)
  • La muerte, 1999 (ed. Diego Martínez Torrón)
  • El modernismo: Apuntes de curso, 1953, 1999 (ed. Jorge Urrutia)
  • Lírica de una Atlántida: 1936-1954, 1999 (ed. Alfonso Alegre Heitzmann)
  • Bonanza, 2000 (ed. Ana Recio Mir)
  • Antología poética, 2001 (ed. José Lupiáñez)
  • Libros de Madrid: Prosa, 2001 (ed. José Luis López Bretones)
  • Sevilla, 2002 (ed. Rogelio Reyes Cano)
  • Olvidados de Granada, 2002 (ed. Manuel Angel Vázquez Medel)
  • Una colina meridiana: 1942-1950, 2003 (ed. Alfonso Alegre Heitzmann)
  • Primeros poemas, 2003 (ed. Jorge Urrutia)
  • Obra poética, 2005 (2 vols., ed. Javier Blasco and Teresa Gómez Trueba)
  • Rimas: 1900-1902, 2006 (ed. Javier Blasco)
  • Poemas: borradores inéditos, 2006 (foreword by Francisco J. Flores Arroyelo)
  • Música de otros, 2006 (ed. Soledad Gonzáles Ródenas)
  • Leyenda, 1986-1956, 2006 (2. ed., ed. Antonio Sánchez Romeralo)
  • Epistolario, 2006- (ed. Alfonso Alegre Heitzmann)
  • Ellos: Libro inédito, 2006 (ed. José Antonio Expósito Hernández)
  • Correspondencia Juan Ramón Jiménez / Guillermo de Torre, 1920-1956, 2006 (ed. Carlos García)
  • Animal de fondo (1949), 2006 (ed. Carlos León Liquete)
  • Obras, 2006-2009
  • Eternidades: 1916-1917: Nueva y Original Edición, 2007 (ed. Emilio Ríos)
  • Antología de prosa lírica, 2007 (ed. Ma. Ángeles Sanz Manzano)
  • Aforismos, 2007 (ed. Andrés Trapiello)
  • Vida y Muerte de Mamá Pura, 2008 (ed. Enrique Pérez Benito)
  • Dios deseado y deseante: (animal de fondo): libro completo y solo, 1948-49/53, 2008 (ed. Rocío Bejarano and Joaquín Llansó)
  • Diario de un poeta recién casado, 1916, 2008 (ed. Javier Blasco)
  • Cuentos largos y otras prosas narrativas breves, 2008  (ed. Teresa Gómez Trueba)
  • Baladas de primavera (1907), 2009 (ed. Javier Blasco)
  • Primeras prosas (1898-1908), 2009 (ed. Antonio Sánchez Trigueros)
  • Prosa lírica, 2009- (ed. Javier Blasco and Teresa Gómez Trueba)
  • Laberinto: 1910-1911, 2009 (ed. Carlos Martin Aires)
  • Guerra de España: Prosa y verso (1936-1954), 2009 (ed. Angel Crespo)
  • Estío: (a punta de espina) (1913-1915), 2009 (ed. Teresa Gómez Trueba)
  • Españoles de tres mundos, 2009 (ed. Javier Blasco and Francisco Díaz de Castro)
  • Cuadermos: 1925 (Unidad), 2009 (ed. José Antonio Expósito)
  • Baladas para después (1914-1915), 2010 (ed. Fernando García Lara)
  • Sonetos espirituales, 1914-1915, 2010 (ed. Teresa Gómez Trueba)
  • Conferencias. II, 2010 (ed. Javir Blasco and F. Silvera)
  • Arias tristes: 1903, 2010 (ed. Carmen Morán Rodríguez)
  • Alerta, 2010 (ed. Javier Blasco)
  • Ala compasiva, 2010 (ed. José Ramón Gonzáles, et al.)
  • Poesías escogidas I (1908-1912), 2011 (ed. Francisco Silvera)

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