Oyster Boy Review 20  
  Summer 2012
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Juan Ramón Jiménez's The Poet and the Sea

Jeffery Beam

  The Poet and the Sea.
Juan Ramón Jiménez.
White Pine Press, 2009.
230 pages, $17.
ISBN: 1935210017

Nobel Prize winning Spanish poet Juan Ramón Jiménez's life-long love of the sea, expressed simply and with ringing clarity in these translations by Mary G. Berg and Dennis Maloney, is celebrated in this collection of his sea poems, including his seminal book Diary of a Poet Recently Married (which for a time he called Diary of a Poet and the Sea) alongside other sea poems from his work.

Jiménez's love of the sea is also an infatuation with his own feelings. In the few early poems included you can see the poet's youthful fascination become stronger as the poet and the sea seem to merge. At first these little poems look on the sea and hears its stories, but then suddenly he seems to merge with it as in this poem "Oberon to Titania": "I and you are now you and me, / like the sky and the sea / are just sea and sky, it wasn't planned."

In the Diary poems the sea and Jiménez are one—the sea reflects everything he feels and experiences, the abysses and the sparkling waves, as he leaves his beloved Spanish village and his family to travel to New York to marry: "For a moment, love fades in the distance. / The sea does not exist; the field of vines, reddish and flat, / merely adorns like a meaningless gleam." ("Moguer")

The Diary is fresh with new images, new experiences, and it seems everything that he touches or that touches him calls forth the sea: "Oh young pure heart / greater than the sea, stronger / in your soft throbbing than the bottomless sea / of steel, cold, shadow and cries! / Oh sea, true sea, / I'm headed across you—thank you, soul!—/ toward love." ("Child at Sea")

However, in the last section of poems written after the Diary, the sea becomes more and more itself, distinct, still somehow within the poet and the poet "of" it, but as a result of this differentiation it suddenly seems much more prescient, much more revealing of the poet's inner self, his desires, and his spirit:

should be able to be what he desires
should be able to be to the extent
of his aspiration and his desire.
Then I would be you, who are you, yourself,
you are what is desired of total desire.

  You alone, sea, know everything,
you forget everything;
you alone, sea, are self sufficient and more.
You are, and you cease to be, simultaneously, everything.

("y. 8")

This enables the poet to transform sea / sky into land, into a fixed point of being which he is "more in balance" as he reaches his "end." Jiménez's sea, a wholeness: "I come to you in search of myself, / and I find you, when my time comes / I discover you with god, a desiring god, / who tells me that you were always his, / that you were always also mine / and in his eyes you offer yourself to me / like a grand vision I always needed." ("RiverSeaDesert")

. . .