I am tempted to speak of Luis García Montero in superlatives: He is, arguably, Spain’s most prominent and influential poet of the last thirty years and will likely go down in history as such. Yet García Montero himself is uncomfortable with his description as a man who stands alone. When I interviewed him about his work in April of this year, he responded to almost every question about himself with an allusion to the work of his predecessors, from the Generation of ’27 poet Federico García Lorca to the avante-garde novísimos whose movement preceded his own; the role of the poet, in his eyes, is fundamentally that of a community member. In a broader sense, this commitment to solidarity and unanimity extends to García Montero’s dedication to his native city of Granada. Urban space, as a result, plays a significant role in his work as a setting of constant and spontaneous interaction.
              The poetry movement García Montero and his contemporaries founded in the early ’80s as students at the University of Granada is called poesía de la experiencia, or Poetry of Experience. While previous Spanish movements envisioned poetry as a tool for effecting political change or as a purely aesthetic, intellectual form, Poetry of Experience is primarily concerned with locating emotional profundity within the experience of the common man in daily life. García Montero writes for his audience, employing a deliberately accessible language, and — perhaps most interestingly — he writes as his audience. He is emphatic about the necessity of erasing the most personal aspects of his poetry in order to create a generalized character upon which the reader can project his own experience. As a result, his poetry is distinctly fictionalized and stands out for its reliance on narrative structures.
              The fundamental goal of this fictionalization is to shrink the distance between the poet and his environment. We see this in his metaphoric strategy as well, as García Montero uses personification to give character to everything from chairs to body parts to the city that surrounds him, while simultaneously minimizing his own role as a protagonist; in doing this, he actively rebels against the heroic protagonist archetype. This equalization is populist in nature, reflecting the political convictions of García Montero, who last year helped found the liberal political party Izquierda Abierta (Open Left). His poetry challenges the hierarchies between beautiful and ugly imagery and the typical false dichotomy between the specially enlightened poet and the rest of the world.
              I was drawn to Diario cómplice (1987) because it is García Montero’s work that most thoroughly exhibits his anti-isolation impulse both thematically and aesthetically. I translate the title as Diary of an Accomplice, and indeed these poems are the confessions of a man who sees himself as inextricably linked to all the world’s actions, but it also means Complicit Diary — the writing itself is an accomplice. As to what exactly his crime is, he leaves that ambiguous, but the poet’s admission of his god-like power in I, XXV, seems to hint at his guilt in the fact that no matter how hard he tries, he can never completely evade his own preeminence.
              This unresolved conflict between his desire to dissolve barriers and the stubborn fact of his uniqueness is at the heart of García Montero’s poetry. His protagonist wavers between declarations of oneness with his city and abject loneliness, and ultimately he is unable to definitively embrace the truth or falseness of either. Romantic poetry is given an unusual twist through this perspective. Not only does the intimacy of the second-person address allow García Montero to put the relationship of self to other under the microscope, but he also affirms his devotion to populism by equalizing relationships of individual to individual (the protagonist to his lover) to those of individual to group (the protagonist to nature, city and urban populace). Rather than employ nature as an ode to the lover’s beauty, he treats the world as a muse in its own right, giving loving attention to such overlooked objects as construction cranes and the red tremble of brake lights. Whether in the political arena or in the realm of poetic imagery, García Montero’s foremost motivation is to challenge divisions between the privileged and the ignored.