Joan Margarit (1938-2021) was one of Spain’s major modern writers. He worked as an architect and first published his work in Spanish, but for the past four decades became known for his mastery of the Catalan language, and was Spain’s most widely acclaimed contemporary poet. The melancholy and candour of his poetry show his affinity with Thomas Hardy, whose work he translated.
In the much praised Tugs in the Fog: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2006), Joan Margarit evoked the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath, the harshness of life in Barcelona under Franco, and grief at the death of a beloved handicapped daughter, reminding us that it is not death we have to understand but life. Now in the more recent work translated in Strangely Happy, he builds an architecture of the human spirit out of the unpromising materials of self-doubt, despair and death.
In writing stripped of all inessentials, and in the company of his dead, Joan Margarit confronts old age and his own death in poems that go on moving us with their harsh, poignant music. His poetry confronts the worst that life can throw at us, yet what lingers in the mind is its warmth and humanity.
‘One of the best, if not the very best, of all contemporary Catalan poets’ – Luis Antonio de Villena, El Mundo
‘Wow!…Erotic closeness, distance, passion, jealousy, indifference, night, death, imagination, apocalypse, and more all in a few lines and a few simple words…His themes [are] delivered with such fire and candour they inspirit’ – Herbert Lomas, Ambit
'I highly recommend the luminous, subtle Tugs in the Fog by the Catalan poet Joan Margarit, translated by Anna Crowe. The Spanish Civil War and its after effects, and the death of his handicapped daughter haunt poems which are nevertheless full of life' – Moniza Alvi, Poetry News
‘Poems in which the poet risks all…This is Margarit at the height of his powers, able to move us more than ever with his sad music, his words that don’t attempt to prettify’ – Jordi Llavina, Avui
‘We already know that literature is a fight to the death with death, but it is a long while since I read a book in which this truth was so visible. So terrifyingly visible, I would say’ – Javier Cercas, El País
Joan Margarit reads with Anna Crowe
Joan Margarit talks about his poem 'The eyes in the rear-view mirror' with his translator Anna Crowe, before she reads her English translation and he reads the original poem in Catalan. The poem is from Tugs in the Fog: Selected Poems. Made during their visit to Aldeburgh Poetry Festival in November 2006, this film is from the DVD-book In Person: 30 Poets, filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce, edited by Neil Astley, which includes three poems from Tugs in the Fog read by Joan Margarit with Anna Crowe.
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