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To serve as an introduction to Catalan poet Enric Casassas we have translated and added to the book review that appeared in the last issue of The Barcelona Review. For a more detailed insight into the man, his work and his language we have an interview, two unpublished poems, one published prose poem (all translated) and, if you have the plug-in, the author reading a short poem which is not translated.
The Catalan-language poet Enric Casassas (Barcelona, 1951) kept himself to himself, as far as his writing went, for a good 20 years, working with small groups of local poets and submerging himself in Arthurian literature, contemporary American writing, British anarchism and what is probably his single most important influence: the Catalan classic Jacint Verdaguer, a cross between Blake and Coleridge who became a semi-international figure in the late 19th century. Casassas appeared in conventional bookshops for the first time with the twin publication of We Weren't There and The Village Next Door (both 1993), and went on to win a series of prestigious awards with new collections such as Lime (1996) and To Make a Mistake Like That (1997), books which were published by major houses and which have made him into one of the best known poets in Catalonia and a cult figure to boot. His fame notwithstanding, he still holds his readings - to packed audiences - in abandoned greengrocers and art galleries of the kind that only open for an hour and a half on Wednesday evening. Not only that, but he has gone back to being published by semi-underground houses, including Container, a tiny but hyperactive operation run out of Aiguafreda village, near Barcelona, by fellow poet Víctor Nik. Container's first book is Casassas's latest: a 9,072 verse hotshot, or, in Casassa's own words, a "high speed poem" which he suggests can be read in any direction or combination. 'Uh' - a title which is pronounced OOO and corresponds to English BOO! - is a mix of sound effects, outrageous puns, fleeting images and sheer lack of inhibition: the work of a poet on holiday, who's stripped off his metres and ryhmes and jumped shrieking into the pool. A random sample: "olives without/stones/but with entrails/beloved hand of the expensive oracle of beloved hand/or chandelier sunfish/or meat in the corner" which leaves 9,066 to go.
UH, by Enric Casassas (Container, Aiguafreda, 1997)