Mystical Poetry as Contemplation of the Love of God

Interview with J.J. Aleixandre, Recipient of International Award

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MADRID, Spain, JAN. 31, 2003 (Zenit.org).- José Javier Aleixandre is the latest winner of the Fernando Rielo International Award for mystical poetry. The prize work is centered on belief in God, the reality of death, and the presence of God in daily life.



Below, Aleixandre discusses the world of mystical poetry, distinguishes it from the religious, and presents it as appropriate language to interrelate spiritual movements.

José Javier Aleixandre Ybargüen, born in 1924, has received some 50 literary awards. He has a licentiate in journalism and is president of the Spanish Association of Authors and Writers (AEAE).

Q: What is mystical poetry?

Aleixandre: Fernando Rielo, creator and sponsor, through the foundation that bears his name, [...] said that mystical poetry consists in expressing with sufficient poetic skill the different ways of intimate personal experience that, in love and pain, the soul has of its union with God.

I will dare to summarize this apt definition with this, perhaps insufficient, phrase: Mystical poetry is that poetry in which God is the sole object of the compass.

Q: How is it distinguished from religious poetry?

Aleixandre: The truth, really, is that I am not a deductive and reasoning man, but a poet that is led by his intuition. Therefore, I am not the most qualified person to explain this difference.

I think, intuitively I reiterate, that religious poetry is description and mystical poetry is contemplation -- description, of course, of spiritual feelings, and contemplation, needless to say, of the Supreme Good.

Q: Speaking poetically, do you consider yourself a mystic?

Aleixandre: No. Absolutely not. Would that it were so! If it were so, I would have a total and exclusive consecration to Supreme Love insofar as possible in this life -- these are words of Fernando Rielo -- and in my poetry there are many different feelings and very different aesthetic intentions expressed.

One can say that St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross, whom I admire beyond all others when they express in verse their love of God above all things, are mystics in their poetry. But I cannot compare myself to them not even remotely -- not just as mystics, but also as poets.

Therefore, if I said that I consider myself a mystical poet I would be deceiving others and also myself. What happens in much of my poetic work, which already amounts to more than 30,000 verses, sometimes in whole books, is that I frequently address spiritual topics, with more or less ability, but always with sincerity.

Q: What topics inspired you to write "Not to Die Completely," the work that won the Rielo award?

Aleixandre: The book is divided in three parts. The first and principal part explores, so to speak, the love of God in the Creed, fundamental source of Catholic belief, in the course of 14 chapters.

It is a long poem in which the most important thesis is that I believe in God, that I need God to exist and to believe in him, if I don't want to die completely when I die.

The last part, also long but not as long as the first, is a eucharistic poem in which God calls me incessantly, but I resist until finally I am drawn by the irresistible magnet of his love.

The central part brings together, instead, 13 poems in consonant rhyme -- two sonnets and 11 heptasyllable 10-line stanzas -- that study God's daily presence in the usual moments of life and in relation to the loved ones around me.

But above all, as the prologue of the book, a [...] poem also justifies my enormous need to come close to God, because as it begins by saying, "no matter how much time I have, I do not have much time left, Lord."