Alfonso Reyes (1889-1959) was the leading Mexican writer of his time. He was revered by his great successor Octavio Paz, a writer who, like himself, was also an Ambassador. Enormously prolific, he was a master of the essay, that "most Latin-American of art forms" and an outstanding critic. He knew Hispanic and classical literature, and translated Homer, Sterne, Chesterton, Stevenson, Shaw, and Chekhov. In turn, Samuel Beckett translated some of his poems into English; some of his essays, too, can be read in English.
Reyes saw writing as "the richest means of expressing human feeling". "Double redemption by the word: first through the concord of bloods; second through the shaping of the personality, in its relation to others as well as in its inner growth." His poetry was varied, always skilful and urbane, and was far outweighed by his huge output of prose. The present selection aims to convey his amazing, half-forgotten skill and some of the flavour and astonishing variety of his formal verse.
"Yes, we have some outstanding poets, a playwright, several critics and three or four prose writers. But above all we have a man for whom literature has been something more than a calling or a destiny: a religion. A man for whom language has been all that language can be: sound and sign, inert trace and wizardry, a clockwork mechanism and a living thing. In short: Poet, critic and translator, he is the Writer; miner, craftsman, peon, gardener, lover and priest of words. His work, various and perfect, is history and poetry, reflection and creation: it is a Literature... Need I name this writer who, while remaining himself, is in himself a group of writers? Far from it: everyone knows I refer to Alfonso Reyes." -Octavio Paz, letter to Guillermo Ibarra, 15 August 1949
This large selection of poetry by Alfonso Reyes is accompanied by the brilliant English versions of an award-winning rhyming translator-poet, Timothy Ades.