Pedro Salinas Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Poets and Poetry, Complete Critical Edition)

Although Pedro Salinas’s reputation is based primarily upon his poetry, which forms the bulk of his work, he also wrote literary criticism, essays, translations, short stories, a novel, and plays. Through his literary criticism and essays, he contributed significantly to an understanding of the process of literary creation and to the appreciation of particular Spanish authors. His critical masterpiece, Reality and the Poet in Spanish Poetry (1940), contains six essays which focus on six different Spanish poets from medieval times to the nineteenth century. Salinas attempts to capture and comprehend the main theme of each author’s work by assessing his attitudes toward reality. The variety and scope of Salinas’s interpretations are also evident in his celebrated studies of the Modernista poet Rubén Darío and the medieval poet Jorge Manrique, and in the two published collections of his articles: Literatura española: Siglo XX (1941, 1949; twentieth century Spanish literature) and Ensayos de literatura hispánica: Del “Cantar de mío Cid” a García Lorca (1958; essays in Hispanic literature: from “Poem of the Cid” to García Lorca).

In contrast to his poetry and literary criticism, which he wrote and published throughout his creative years, Salinas’s narrative prose represents the work of two distinct periods: his early beginnings as a writer and his final years. The early works are extremely lyric and impressionistic, almost like poems in prose, and they contain the same themes ever prominent in his poetry: love, illusion, fate, the poet. The later short stories represent a marked development in Salinas’s narrative art. Each possesses a complex plot in which he combines lyricism, mystery, irony, humor, and criticism of the modern world. Salinas’s only novel, La bomba increíble (1950; the incredible bomb), develops his concern about the ominous contemporary possibility: the destruction of the world by the atomic bomb. This allegorical satire of modern life ends, however, with the triumph of love.

Salinas’s plays (two three-act plays and twelve one-act plays) are the fruit of his mature years. With respect to their content, they, like the narratives, are for the most part an extension of his poetic work. Of particular significance are the themes of communication, love, brotherhood, illusion versus reality, human happiness, the poetic imagination, and the dehumanization of modern humankind.


(Poets and Poetry, Complete Critical Edition)

Pedro Salinas, the eldest member of the celebrated generación del 27, or Generation of ’27, was a leader in its vigorous revival of Spain’s poetic past. He and his contemporaries successfully renewed appreciation of Spain’s lyric tradition and fused this wealthy heritage with contemporary literary trends: The result was a second golden age of poetry in Spain. Although the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) led to the disruption and displacement of the Generation of ’27, Salinas flourished in exile and continued to stimulate interest in Spanish literature—not only as a poet but also as a teacher and critic.

The Love Cycle

(Poets and Poetry, Complete Critical Edition)

Salinas’s love trilogy is generally considered to be his best poetry. My Voice Because of You traces the history of a love relationship from its first stages to fulfillment, to separation, to a recovery of the experience by means of the poet’s internalization of his past happiness. In Razón de amor, the poet continues to reflect upon past love. In his emotional meditations, he resolves the conflicts concerning love’s illusive nature and proclaims love a permanent, redemptive reality for human existence. In Largo lamento, as the title suggests, some of the poet’s bitterness returns. The poems of this volume foreshadow the disenchantment and preoccupation with the fragility of life that Salinas expresses in Todo más claro y otros poemas. Each poem of the love cycle forms an independent unit and at the same time is a part of the trilogy in its entirety.

Critics disagree on whether the poems are addressed to a real or an imaginary woman. She is never named, and all information about her is conveyed through the poet’s internal consciousness. She remains quite vague, but the experiences of the poet in the love relationship are extremely vivid and deeply moving.

My Voice Because of You

One of the most beautiful poems in My Voice Because of You is todo con exceso!” (“Yes, Too Much of Everything”), in which the poet communicates his ecstasy in the plenitude of love. A central metaphor and its numerous variations give the poem its structure: love compared with numbers. Salinas’s predilection for paradox is evident in his juxtaposition of the “oneness” of love with love’s infinity and freedom from all limits. There are images of ascension—“to mount up,” “our slender joys . . . aloft to their height”—yet the lovers surrender “to a great uncertain depth” from which the culminating expression of love’s infinity emerges: “This is nothing yet./ Look deeply at yourselves. There’s more.” The language is simple, often prosaic, antipoetic: “from dozens to hundreds,” “from hundreds to thousands,” “writing tablets, pens, machines,” “ciphers,” “calculations.” Nevertheless, the result is poetry: “everything to multiply/ caress by caress/ embrace by wild passion.” “Light” and “sea” are again present in this immeasurable experience—“too much light, life and sea/ Everything in plural,/ plural lights, lives and seas”—but gone are the more complicated metaphors and imagery of his earlier works. Salinas employs more wordplay, internal rhythm, and short phrases, but his work still possesses elegance and still makes use of traditional Spanish meters in varied combinations, in unrhymed verses, that echo Spanish Golden Age poets.

In “No quiero que te vayas” (“Sorrow, I Do Not Wish You”), the poet engages in a dialogue with his pain and desires to hold onto it as the “last form of loving.” A profoundly emotional piece, the poem describes how the poet tries to cope with separation from his beloved. There are no metaphors in this poem; its tension and profundity are bound in clear, conceptual speech containing opposing elements. The poet’s sorrow is the proof that his beloved once loved him: “Your truth assures me/ that nothing was untrue.” He can thus live in “that crumbled reality which/ hides itself and insists/ that it never existed.” In later poems, he no longer feels such anguish, but...

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Reality and the Poet

(Poets and Poetry, Complete Critical Edition)

Critics have followed Salinas’s own guidance in Reality and the Poet in Spanish Poetry and have tried to determine the author’s vision of the world by establishing his basic attitude toward reality. Their opinions differ greatly. He has been viewed as one who wavers between acceptance of reality and nothingness, as an escapist, a romantic idealist in search of the absolute, a kind of Neoplatonist, and a mystic. Those critics who point to Salinas’s varying perspectives on reality are probably more correct. His works represent a synthesis of several possible attitudes toward reality: exaltation, idealization, escape, revolt, and acceptance. Yet, if one attitude can be said to prevail, it is Salinas’s basic acceptance of reality. Although certain volumes convey the desire of the poet to look beyond his circumstances from a variety of perspectives, a fundamental acceptance of life is the ground note of Salinas’s oeuvre.


(Poets and Poetry, Complete Critical Edition)

Allen, Rupert C. Symbolic Experience: A Study of Poems by Pedro Salinas. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1982. A critical interpretation of selected poems by Salinas. Includes an index and bibliography.

Crispin, John. Pedro Salinas. New York: Twayne, 1974. An introductory biography and critical study of selected works by Salinas. Includes bibliographic references.

Newman, Jean Cross. Pedro Salinas and His Circumstance. San Juan, P.R.: Inter American University Press, 1983. A biography of Salinas offering a historical and cultural background of his life and works.

Shaughnessy, Lorna. The Developing Poetic Philosophy of Pedro Salinas: A Study in Twentieth Century Spanish Poetry. Lewiston, N.Y.: Mellen University Press, 1995. A critical analysis of the philosophy evident in Salinas’s poetry. Includes bibliographical references and an index.

Stixrude, David. The Early Poetry of Pedro Salinas. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1967. A critical study of Salinas’s early works. Includes bibliographic references.