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Six Masters of the Spanish Sonnet

Six Masters of the Spanish Sonnet

Francisco de Quevedo, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Antonio Machado, Federico Garcia Lorca, Jorge Luis Borges, Miguel Hernandez

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Essays and Translations by Willis Barnstone


Paperback (Other formats: NLEB)
336 pages, 5.5 x 9.25, 6 illustrations


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About the Book

With poems selected and translated by one of the preeminent translators of our day, this bilingual collection of 112 sonnets by six Spanish-language masters of the form ranges in time from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries and includes the works of poets from Spanish America as well as poets native to Spain. Willis Barnstone’s selection of sonnets and the extensive historical and biographical background he supplies serve as a compelling survey of Spanish-language poetry that should be of interest both to lovers of poetry in general and to scholars of Spanish-language literature in particular.

Following an introductory examination of the arrival of the sonnet in Spain and of that nation’s poetry up to Francisco de Quevedo, Barnstone takes up his six masters in chronological turn, preceding each with an essay that not only presents the sonneteer under discussion but also continues the carefully delineated history of Spanish-language poetry. Consistently engaging and informative and never dull or pedantic, these essays stand alone as appreciations—in the finest sense of that word—of some of the greatest poets ever to write. It is, however, Barnstone’s subtle, musical, clear, and concise translations that form the heart of this collection. As Barnstone himself says, "In many ways all my life has been some kind of preparation for this volume."


WillisBarnstone is a distinguished professor of comparative literature, Spanish and West European studies, and East Asian languages and cultures at Indiana University. Twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, his memoir of his apprenticeship as a poet—Sunday Morning in Fascist Spain—is available from Southern Illinois University Press.


"Willis Barnstone has for decades been known as perhaps America’s most gifted translator of Spanish poetry. A splendid poet himself, Barnstone has always been commended for the empathy, accuracy, and musicality of his translations. Yet Six Masters of the Spanish Sonnet is his most remarkable translation thus far; it is, in fact, more an act of wizardry than of translation. Barnstone not only offers compact but comprehensive essays on each of his six chosen masters but also over one hundred bedazzling translations—all strictly rhymed and metered, and yet amazingly free of the awkwardness we have come to expect from such attempts at equivalent renderings. Here, perhaps for the first time, English-speaking readers can appreciate something of the mastery of poetic form that characterizes the work of these great Spanish-language poets: the Catullan vigor and bawdiness of Quevedo, the austere gravities of Machado’s late sonnets, the implosive surrealist fury of Hernández, and the wry eloquence of Borges, who in a poem on the dying Heine refers to the ‘exquisite melodies / Whose instrument he was.’ Willis Barnstone allows us to hear the exquisite melodies of each of his masters. We can be grateful that he has served them so well."—David Wojahn, author of Mystery Train, his most recent collection of poetry, and coeditor of A Profile of Twentieth-Century Poetry