Jordi Guardans and the angels, his poetic world
A- Today, I speak with a poet for the first time and I’m glad I do it with someone with the stature of Jordi Guardans.
J.- Thank you Andy.
A.-Explain to me what it means to be a poet.
J.- First of all you should know why a person writes poetry. Why would he take a piece of paper and write a long text. In poetry, like in any occupation, there are good and bad poets. I once heard a perfect definition. It said poets are those who are surprised by things that don’t surprise the rest of us. That’s why they need, we need, to tell others. We write in verse because the thoughts of things that surprise us are very attached to the music. And you play with the verses, making them longer or shorter, more or less important.
A.- And they have to rhyme.
J.- That depends. If you were born to be a poet you have the need to write your feelings. It is like a ringing bell in your head telling you to sit down and grab a blank piece of paper. This is an action of freedom. When you start writing the feeling takes its own shape. Sometimes the poem needs to be counted in eleven syllables, other times you write one thing after the other, playing visually. This is poetry. There are honest people, sincere people and liars. Some people misuse poetry.
A.- Good poems use very romantic words.
J.- Yes, of course. I’ll tell you a couple of things. There are two threats in poetry. When someone has a strong desire to be a poet but not the talent, he might use rare or intricate words to appear interesting. I always say that if the first verse has three or four words I need to look up in the dictionary, then I don’t like that poet. He is not treating me well.
You are right when you say honest poets use words aimed to the heart. From this point of view words are romantic.
A.- There is where I was heading.
J.- There is also people who aims at your heart with bad attitude and those who do it with good sense. Everyone goes in his own way because each one expresses himself differently.
A.- Good poems touch your heart.
J.- And your head.
A.-I like poems of honest poets that reach my heart.
J.- To reach your heart poems have to get through your head.
A.- Or not.
J.- You are right. It doesn’t matter.
A.- Before coming here I was looking at one of your book of poems and I saw the word “fuck” (“follar” in the original in Spanish). I joked: now in Catalan we say “follar” instead of make love?
J.- Well, it’s a bit more complicated. It’s related to what I was saying about using the dictionary. I could use a word that meant the same but not as clear. And I wonder, why I can’t say it clearly?
A.- No, if I’m not complaining.
J.- I’ll tell you another thing. There is poetry that reaches to the head and the heart and it’s not done by good poets.
A.- There are those who do it with good intentions and who don’t.
J.- Exactly. Like good carpenters and bad carpenters willing to do a good job.
A.- You are among the good ones.
J.- Thanks. I believe so, even if it sounds pretentious.
A.-I think I’m learning a lot. To me, everything related to feelings, love and expressed poetically… How do you do it?
J.- I’ll explain you something that will help you understand my poetic world. I’m convinced the life we live is not the only life there is. I’m sure you have experienced a coincidence you think is not normal. Or you’ve had a dream of something and then you find out it is something real. Each of us has his own sensibility. I’m very open to this kind of stuff.
A.- It happens to me too. Lately I remember childhood anecdotes like I was there, living it again. A psychologist told me we remember better our childhood as we get older. Is that what you mean?
J.- Yes, it is exactly that. One of my recurrent themes is children. I’m sure kids tell the truth. Al least the good ones do, because there are also bad kids. The small kids tell the truth.
A.- It’s like talking about love. The first kiss is a lifelong memory. It happens to me. Do you want to go down that road?
J.- Yes, but I’m going to make it more complicated. You talk about the first love and it serves me well as an example. I feel devotion for angels since childhood. Just like I remember my first love, I believe angels exist. When I write poetry I have the feeling there is another reality, one that transcends this one, that makes us important. I believe we will be beings of light someday.
There are things you can’t explain. When I was three or four years old, with no musical tradition at home, I sat at the piano nobody played and started playing. Where did I learn if nobody had taught me? The same way I knew I had to use poetry to talk about this other reality, and not only that, to talk about the angels. I believe we all have a guardian angel and it would be nice to pray to him. I was told a curios story one day. If you are angry with someone and you can´t see a way to solve it, pray to your guardian angel, so he will talk to the other person’s guardian angel. They manage to solve it while we are unable to make things happen. Mi poetry is related to this kind of stories.
A.- I’m a bit puzzled. I’m not sure if this angel thing has something to do with the stars.
J.- Yes it does.
A.- In a summer night, the stars appear in the clear sky. This is very romantic. A star shines because there is love inside her and when we are in love, we are inside that star. Do you see it that way?
J.- You are right. I believe you are a bit of a poet. Every romantic moment is related to the stars. But I don’t pray to the stars, I pray to the angels, who are the workers of the stars.
A.- Here I feel peace and quiet. I don’t know if I should say this, but inside me I feel a person that helps me keep going. It’s my dad, who died. My angel.
J.- Your father is in a world of light and can help you a lot from there. I believe we become spirits of light when we die. And the angels are with your father. He knows everything clearly, without the need of poetry. He is happy and joyful, which is almost impossible in this life. I believe this life is an exile from the stars. We are exiled. If we are marveled when we see a star is because we are exiled from them. We always miss something when we are away from the stars.
J.- It is like we are traveling.
A.- In Christmas is said that… I don’t know who wrote it… that it was an angel who told Saint Joseph Maria had given birth.
J.- I am not a catholic. But thinking about Jesus, all the love he gave and how he ended.
A.- Do you know why they killed him? I do know. They killed him because all he talked was love.
J.- That’s why we have to protect ourselves, because evil exists. The evil that killed Jesus is not going to kill us, but can give us a big kick in the butt.
A.- The way I am I don’t believe it could happen. I’m a good guy but I wouldn’t allow it.
J.- Very well, but you’ve had more problems in life than other people.
A.- But I’ve overcome them.
J.- You have, and have become wiser. Sometimes this happens to poets. García-Lorca, for example, had a big sensibility and wrote beautiful things, and evil killed him. We have to protect ourselves.
A.- I feel the angels when I see someone suffering or crying for example. I always try to care for the others. People love this.
J.- Do you mean the girls?
A.- Yes, I’ve had many girlfriends (we laugh).
J.- It seems you know a lot (we laugh again).
A.- Besides being a poet you are a composer. How can you do both things at the same time?
J.- I can’t separate writing poems from writing songs because I’m the same person. What I know is when I write poems I can be intellectually exigent without looking for difficult words. When someone reads poetry doesn’t do it all at once. He makes it his own; he re-reads… on the other hand, a song must reach you immediately. The substance is the same, but not the form.
I’m sure I couldn’t compose by request, because I find it impossible to leave my world. However, those who sing my songs are able to do it; they come into my world through their perspective. That’s why I’m so grateful.
A.- I like to put myself in someone else’s shoes. To try to feel what would be like to be in someone else’s skin.
J.- That’s called empathy. But, since we are all different, we are all explained differently.
A.- I like to look after the others.
J.- It’s very good to look after the other, but sometimes you must be able to say: I’m this way. If I’m empathic, the others should be empathic with me too, because I deserve it.
A.- Now that you say that, I believe I know very selfish people who only loves their family and themselves.
J.- Look, between friends you can talk things straight. But if some day someone you don’t know very well says something you don’t like, you can use a method the writer Ana Maria Moix told me. I don’t know if it is your case, but I’m a bit slow, I need time to react. If this happens to you, you tell this person: I don’t like what you just told me, but some other day I will tell you why.
A.- When we are jealous we say things we don’t feel.
J.- Yes, but that is something different. I was talking about people you hardly know.
A.- I get it. I think I’m learning a lot from this conversation.
J.- Do you want to hear one of my songs?
A.- Sung by you?
J.- No, I don´t sing. I did it when I was young but I don’t do it anymore, except when I’m composing. In this record there are very diverse people: Carles Rabassa, Sílvia Comes, Esther Formosa, Gerard Quintana…
A.- Play the one by Gerard Quintana.
In the low hours of the afternoon, at Jordi’s house, with the song a full volume, I had an intense feeling I will never forget. This has been my first interview, but more than an interview it has been a conversation. I would never be able to thank the way Jordi Guardans received me. I felt at home and I learned poetry is always present even though sometimes we are not able to see it.
JORDI GUARDANS (Barcelona 1955).
He has written the following poetry books: Tsares (published in Barcelona in 1979, in limited edition by the Eina School. Subsequently translated into English and published in the U.S., by the literary magazine “American Catalan Society”; Tant de bo que siguin les penúltimes penes (Marià Manent 1993 Award. Columna Ed., sold out); El Rèquiem blau (Editions 62, 2002) prologued by Pere Gimferrer; Montserrat (Emboscall, 2006. 2nd. Edition, 2007); Abbà (Emboscall, 2006); and the anthology Els àngels i el perill. Anthology. Edition and introduction by Carles Guillén i Selva (Emboscall, 2006) – from this anthology and using the same title, Guardans has done concerts in collaboration with Ester Formosa and pianist Villavecchia Maurici.
Planeta Balalaika was published in 2007 (Emboscall) and Contra venena et animalia in 2008 (Emboscall) with a foreword by Enric Bou. In 2010, El libro de Dresden (Pagès editors) was published with a foreword by Enric Bou and epilogue by Carlos Guillen, and in 2011, Trenta-tres cançons i tres poemes (Emboscall), introduction and edition by Carlos Guillen i Selva, illustrations by Jordi Guardans (Quadern de viatge. Siena 1980). This book provides, so far, all the lyrics of songs recorded by various performers and three poems composed and sung for other purposes.
In 1981 he won the gold medal of the Real Cercle Artístic of Barcelona on the occasion of its centennial with the play La ciutat il•luminada. This play was published in 1989 by Barcelona’s Instituto del Teatre with a foreword by Ana Maria Moix.
Guardans has written songs as part of his poetic work. In 1988 publishes the album Port Estrella singing his own compositions. Ester Formosa records his songs in the albums La casa solitària (2000) and Època (2003). María del Mar Bonet does the same in the albums Lluna de pau (2003), recorded live at the TNC (all proceedings went to a humanitarian campaign for Irak), and Terra secreta (2007). Gerard Quintana sings and set poems to music in the CDs Les claus de sal (2004) and Per un tros de cel (2005). Guardans find this experience enriching.
In 2007 Ester Formosa dedicates to him the album Ester Formosa canta Jordi Guardans. Sola com el poeta. In 2008, Túrnez&Sesé set a poem to music and dedicate him a song in the album Romanços i estampes del 21. In 2010 is published the álbum Adolfo Osta, Carles Rebassa, Ester Formosa, Gerard Quintana, Silvia Comes, Túrnez & Sesé. Canten Jordi Guardans. T’escric des de Granada.