Almas de violeta, 1900
Arias tristes, 1903
Jardines lejanos, 1904
Elegías puras, 1908
La soledad sonora, 1908
Elegías intermedias, 1909
Elegías lamentables, 1910
Baladas de primavera, 1911
Diario de un poeta recién casado, 1917
Poesías escojidas, 1917
Sonetos espirituales, 1917 (Spiritual Sonnets, 1996)
Piedra y cielo, 1919 (Sky and Rock, 1989)
Segunda antolojía poética, 1922
La estación total, 1946
Romances de Coral Gables, 1948
Animal de fondo, 1949
Libros de Poesía, 1957
Tercera antolojía poética, 1957
Three Hundred Poems, 1905-1953, 1962
Dios deseado y deseante, 1964
Ideolojía: 1897-1957, 1990
Platero y yo, 1914, enlarged 1917 (Platero and I, 1956)
Españoles de tres mundos, 1944
Monumento de amor, 1959
La corriente infinita, 1961
El trabajo gustoso, 1961
Tiempo y espacio, 1986 (Time and Space: A Poetic Autobiography, 1988)
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.
Juan Ramón Jiménez, Nobel Laureate in Literature for 1956
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 time a business failure plunged his family into poverty, and his father died. When, shortly after, his two volumes of poems were met with violent attacks from the critics, the sensitive writer fled to a sanatorium. His general reticence and withdrawal from active life date from this period. Later Jiménez felt so embarrassed by those first two collections that he destroyed all the copies he could find.
With his next two volumes, however, Rimas (rhymes), whose title proves his kinship to Bécquer, and Arias tristes (sad airs), critical attack turned into admiration. Jiménez’s friendship with Darío, whose enthusiasm was boundless, was to last until Darío’s death in 1916. Jiménez called the Nicaraguan “My dear Master” and was addressed in turn as “My dear Poet.”
Jiménez lived in Madrid from 1912 until 1916, when he sailed to New York to marry the poet Zenobia Camprubi Aymar, the Spanish translator of Rabrindranath Tagore. (Later Jiménez and his wife collaborated on the translation of John Millington Synge’s Riders to the Sea.) Jiménez’s account of this trip is Diario de un poeta recién casado (diary of a recently married poet), a volume of great importance in the development of modern Spanish poetry. It also marks the beginning of his new phase in writing, as does the publication of his most famous work, Platero and I, a series of vignettes about a donkey of Moguer. A reviewer for the French newspaper Figaro called it, “One of two or three books capable of giving back to the people their childhood soul,” and critics generally have rated it as one of the great classics of Spanish literature.
Following his marriage Jiménez returned to Madrid, where his wife opened a handicraft shop so he could continue writing. There they lived until the outbreak of civil war drove them from Spain. After an initial period spent in Cuba and Puerto Rico, Jiménez settled in Baltimore, where he supported himself by teaching. In 1951 he moved back to Puerto Rico for the sake of the climate. His wife died shortly after he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1956, and he continued to live there until his death in 1958.
Jiménez’s poetry shows a continual development from his florid early style, against which he rebelled in the ballads of his 1905 Pastorales. His life was spent revising all his previous poetry in an attempt to purify it. In his latest style of free verse that he called “la poesía desnuda” (naked poetry), he cleared away all the decoration of rhyme and meter, creating work that is more subtle but also more difficult to understand. Jiménez’s post-Symbolist poetry had a significant influence on the Spanish avant-garde generation that went through the phase of “pure poetry.” Later, during his exile, his presence in the Caribbean strengthened the stream of “pure poetry” in the whole region through the 1950’s. The posthumous publication of his aphorisms, Ideolojía: 1897-1957 (ideology), reveals a surprisingly radical political mind, which he had managed to hide completely behind his distanced, rarified, and intellectualized “poesía desnuda.”