Juan Ramón Jiménez (hee-MAY-nuhs), who shares with Antonio Machado Ruiz (1875-1939) the preeminent position among twentieth century Spanish lyric poets, was born in the village of Moguer, Andalusia. He received his early education at the Jesuit school in Santa Maria, near where Christopher Columbus outfitted his expedition for the New World. After completing his formal study at the University of Seville, Jiménez continued to educate himself by reading the old Spanish ballads in the Romanceros and the poems of the seventeenth century Baroque writer Góngora y Argote and those of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, the late-Romantic poet whom Jiménez regarded as the initiator of twentieth century Spanish poetry. The poetry of the Romantic movement in England and Germany also inspired him, as did the French Symbolists. In addition he studied painting and music, both of which left an imprint on his work.
His literary career began during the period of transition that marked the closing years of the nineteenth century, and Jiménez’s first publication at the age of seventeen indicated his choice between continuing his study of law in Seville or devoting himself to literature. The verses, sent to Vida nueva of Madrid, though overdecorated and florid, nevertheless attracted the attention of the magazine’s more famous contributors, resulting in an invitation to come to the capital to have a share in the reform of Spanish poetry. Signed to the invitation were two of the greatest names in Madrid literary circles: the Spanish poet Francisco Villaespesa and the meteoric New World writer Rubén Darío.
In April, 1900, the eighteen-year-old Jiménez went to Madrid, taking with him a portfolio of verses he intended for a volume titled Nubes (clouds), which was never published. His new friends encouraged him to add enough poems to make a second volume, for which Darío suggested the name Almas de violeta, and Villaespesa wrote the preface. Jiménez found the excitements of Madrid overwhelming, however, and he returned to quiet Moguer to await the appearance of his books. About that...
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