Maybe you remember, Merlin, how we told lies
To make ourselves feel better, it’s impossible
For them to leave us alone, to our music,
To our tears, like a light
In the city centre, a lost dog
At the bus stop, the hand stretched out
Like a light in the centre

Of the city, an impossible light, moonlit
Over the wall spiked up with glass shards
Against the house next door, on its choreography
Of emeralds,

The wind howling in the night rain,
Asking itself about its own condition –
The geometrics of rain.

Manuel Vilanova

Commentary by Jason Preater:

Why does Merlin touch the soul of Galician poetry?  The connection with a Celtic tradition is part of an answer, there is the sense that magic might still be practised in the wooded glades of rural areas : tales of healers and popular healings abound; the herbalist lives; witches are possible.
Manuel Vilanova’s Merlin, however, is displaced from the woods to the city.  The enjambment that leads from the `light in the centre’ to ‘of the city’ is disquieting and disappointing because of the sense of lost contact with nature.  How can Merlin make his way in this environment, where a lost dog wanders at a bus stop?

Not Even In the Sky (Nin siquera no ceo (Santiago de Compostela: Follas Novas, 2011) is an intelligent, cultured and sensitive meditation on themes that arise from Galician literature.  These themes are refracted through the characteristic broken light of modern poetic practice — like the ‘choreography of emeralds’.  Sharply drawn images of alienation and city-life are counterpoised against tradition, culture and a predominantly rural, elegiac past.

At its best the minipoema, as the poet calls the individual visions of his verses, captures a moment of heightened intensity.  And as these moments are brought together in the book they emerge as themes of singular relevance to life in modern Galicia: how to take on the inheritance of the past; how love and sorrow continue to illuminate, like the moonlight, our lives despite all changes; how fantasy and imagination thread through even the most mundane feature s of this world.

Manuel Vilanova was born in Barbantes (Ourense) in 1944.  He is a teacher in Vigo.  Nin siquera no ceo is a new collection from Editorial Follas Novas (www.follasnovas.es).

Note: Jason Preater will be presenting Galician Saudade poetry and song at our final meeting this year of the series “The Trace They Wished to Leave” due to take place on November 30th at the Poetry Cafe, Betterton Street — see Events and MeetingsS.H.

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