Complete Poetry by Jorge Luis Borges (part I) (♦♦♦♦♦)

Fervor de Buenos Aires (Fervor of Buenos Aires) (1923)

In Fervor of Buenos Aires, Borges describes his devotion to Buenos Aires through a compendium of poems dedicated to streets, gardens, neighborhoods, a butchery, all seen through light changes on afternoons, nights, and dawns. He also dedicates epitaphs to ancestors, heroes, unknown people, and time gone by.

My favorite poem in this collection was Sepulchral Inscription.

Luna de Enfrente (Moon from the front) (1925)

The city is again the theme in this compilation, but in Moon from the front, Borges pays homage not only to Buenos Aires but other cities he has visited, as in Dakar, Montevideo and Mi vida entera (My Entire Life).

Borges admits in the prologue to this book that “the city from Fervor of Buenos Aires never ceases being intimate, while in [Moon from the front] is ostentatious and public…

At least two poems don’t allude to the city in this compilation: one is Manuscrito hallado en un libro de Joseph Conrad (Manuscript found inside a book by Joseph Conrad), and the other is El general Quiroga va en coche al muere (The general Quiroga travels by coach to death).

My favorite poem in this collection was Versos de Catorce (Verses of Fourteen).

Cuaderno San Martín (Saint Martin Notebook) (1929)

In Saint Martin Notebook Borges writes again odes to Buenos Aires such as Elegía de los portones (Elegy to Gates), Curso de los recuerdos (Course of Memories), Barrio Norte (North Neighborhood), Paseo de Julio (Promenade Julio), and Fundación mítica de Buenos Aires (Mythical Foundation of Buenos Aires), in which Borges expresses: “To me it is a story Buenos Aires started: I judge her as eternal as air and water.”

In this compilation Borges also alludes death, as in La noche que en el Sur lo velaron (The night of his wake in the south), Muertes de Buenos Aires (Deaths of Buenos Aires) and A Francisco López Merino (To Francisco López Merino).

The only poem I liked in this collection was Fundación mítica de Buenos Aires (Mythical Foundation of Buenos Aires).

El Hacedor (The Maker) (1960)

The Maker contains some of Borges’ most famous poems, such as Ajedrez (Chess), Poema de los Dones (Poem of Gifts), El Reloj de Arena (Sand Clock) and La Luna (The Moon). In this collection Borges evokes themes such as destiny, God’s irony, the inevitability of the passing of time, his blindness, and the shapes he senses in the mirror.

The Maker also contains other poems with various topics. Some of my favorite Borges’ poems are included in this collection, such as the ones mentioned above.

El Otro, El Mismo (The Other, The Same) (1964)

This compilation, which spans three decades of writings, is erudite in nature. In it, Borges pays homage to novelists like Cervantes [Un Soldado de Urbina (A Soldier of Urbina)], to the philosopher and baroque writer Baltasar Gracián (in a homonymous poem), and to poets of the caliber of John Milton [Una rosa y Milton (A Rose and Milton)], Homer [El otro (The Other)], Dante, Whitman (Camden, 1892), Emerson, Edgar Allan Poe and Rafael Cansinos-Asséns (in homonymous poems). In addition, Borges pays homage to minor poets who didn’t transcend their times [A un poeta menor de la antología (To a minor poet in an anthology); Un poeta del siglo XIII (A poet from the XIII century); A un poeta menor de 1899 (To a minor poet of 1889)].

Borges also pays homage to heroes [Poema Conjetural (Conjectural Poem); Un soldado de Lee (1862) (A soldier of Lee (1862)], in his family [Junín; Página para recordar al coronel Suárez, vencedor en Junín (Page to remember Colonel Suarez, victorious in Junin)], and of myths such as Ulysses [Odisea, Libro Vigésimo Tercero (Odyssey, Book Twenty third)] and Beowulf [Fragmento (Fragment)], and to the Saxons whose swords founded England [Un sajón (449 A.D.) (A Saxon (449 A.D.)].

Borges writes not only about literary or mythical heroes in The Other, The Same, but also about more ordinary things such as water [Poema del cuarto element (Poem of the fourth element)], the sea, hunger, wine, and a coin. Magic and science converge in El Alquimista (The Alchemist); the memory of God and the absence of oblivion are the themes in Everness and Ewigkeit, the Hispanic heritage of Latin America is the topic in España (Spain), and life’s small miracles is the theme in Otro poema de los dones (Another poem of gifts); to the pleasures of sleep he describes in El sueño (The Dream).

At times Borges resorts to the rhyme so characteristic in his poetry [e.g. Al vino (To wine); Soneto del vino (Sonnet to wine), El hambre (Hunger)], and other times he uses simple verses to tell a story [e.g. Mateo XXV, 30; Hengist Cyning; Alguien (Someone)].

I’ve realized that I prefer Borges’ use of rhyme to the lack of it. Invariably, my favorite poems by Borges have that in common. My two favorite poems in this collection are Poema del cuarto elemento (Poem of the fourth element) and El sueño (The Dream).

Comments

  1. The poetry of Borges is a treasure and this is nice review of it. Fortunately for us, he was very prolific so there's a lot to enjoy.

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    Replies
    1. I'm really enjoying reading all his poetry, but it's a lot of work because I'm juggling two books at once.

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