Juan Ramón Jimenéz won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1956 for "his lyrical poetry, which in Spanish language constitutes an example of high spirit and artistical purity,” two years before he died. Jimenéz taught a generation of Spanish poets, and set out quite consciously with the goal of making Spanish poetry the most beautiful in the world. He spent six full decades writing.
His aphorisms exhibit a great striving and devotion to art, but can be dry, making Jimenéz sometimes seem like a poetic bureaucrat. And perhaps that’s what makes his poems so distilled and exquisite - the endless pursuit of perfection. It also makes him seem like a difficult character.
This book is broken into sections surrounding the topics Self, Rhythm, Silence, The Present, Memory, Ideals, Nature, Instinct, Dream, Death, Writing, Revision, Perfection
. Each section includes an informative, short introduction by the book's editor with details on Jimenéz's life and work habits.
Jimenéz would not be one who believes “first draft, best draft.” He sought a balance between the free imagination (instinct) and the drive to revise (intelligence).
His best points are about silence and memory, silence being a wellspring in which to form your thoughts and develop your work undisturbed, and memory being rather ambiguous, that is, sometimes more a constraint than an inspiration. His best aphorism is - “To forget is to be reborn.”
Here are a few other favorites:
“When you’re working on one thing and start to yearn for another, imagine that this thing you’re working on would be the one you would yearn for if you were working on the other. (The Present)
“For remorse, there is no consolation.” (Memory)
“There are no better draftsmen than dust and shadows.” (Ideals)
And the one that seems to define his life:
“What does death matter if, in life and in work, we have conquered it day after day: if we have gone beyond it our thoughts and hearts?” (Death)