The Life & Works of Jorge Riechmann

Jorge Riechmann is a contemporary Spanish poet who is closely associated with the group of poets who wrote deeply political poetry which fell under the name of poesía de la conciencia during the 1990s. Aside from being a poet, Riechmann is also a prolific translator, sociologist and ecologist.

Jorge Riechmann - Life

Jorge Riechmann was born in Madrid in 1962 as a third generation immigrant - his grandfather originally went to visit Spain from Germany in 1919. His grandfather then married an Andalusian woman and stayed there, hence the German surname of the poet. Riechmann began reading at an early age and as a schoolboy he was driven to write for various competitions including the Coca-Cola prize for school essays as well as the INLE prize. (Insituto del Libro Español).

It was his friend, the poet and priest José Mascaraque Díaz-Mingo, who put Jorge Riechmann on to poetry and helped to publish his first work in 1977 in the first edition of the magazine called 'Cuadernos Literarios Síntesis'.

Riechmann was very conscious of political life in the first half of the 1980s, especially with the campaign against Spain's membership with NATO. From then on he remained closely linked with the eco-pacifist movements in Spain. For example he was the editor at the magazine 'En pie de paz' from 1987 to 1994.

The 1980s also saw Jorge Riechmann get involved with translation. His first translation was published in 1985 and was a bilingual anthology of the poet René Char entitled Solitario y múltiple. The translation of poetry by Char would be a major project for Riechmann in the years ahead, along with the work of Heiner Müller. Also during this period, Riechmann met Luis Antonio de Villena, who read his unedited work and included it in his Spanish poetry anthology Postnovísimos of 1986.

Jorge Riechmann then went to study Math at the Complutense University in Madrid in 1986 before going on to study Philosophy in UNED and German literature in the Wilhelm von Humboldt of Berlin Oriental University. He also received a doctorate in Political Sciences from the Autonomous University of Barcelona with his thesis on the green party in Germany. He remained at this last university from 1990 until 2008 in the Sociology and Methodology of Social Sciences department, as well as working as a Moral Philosophy professor there as well. He also performed this role in the Philosophy department of the Autonomous University of Madrid.

Between 1990 and 2003, Riechmann worked as the editor of the social science and political reflection magazine Mientras Tanto. In the last few years, he has also been heavily involved in politics and environmental issues. From 1996 to 2008 he worked in the biotechnology and agro-food areas of the Departamento Confederal de Medio Ambiente de CC.OO, while from 2001 to 2008 he was an investigator of environmental issues at ISTAS. He has also been a member of the Spanish Greenpeace Council from 2002 to 2006, along with other organizations such as the Spanish Ecological Agriculture Society.

During this time, Jorge Riechmann and José María Parreño managed the collection of poetry Hoja por ojo in the Valencia publication 'Germanía'. He also continues to translate a large amount of French and German literature.

Jorge Riechmann - Works

The poetic work of Jorge Riechmann can be situated in the genre of social poetry. His work is among some of the great contemporary poetry in Spain and is renowned for its sarcastic tone, as well as his aesthetic which has also been influenced by expressionism. With regards to his aesthetic, Riechmann produces a correcting and resistant poetry against the immoral spectacle that is modern day society. It is an affirmative poetry which is not overrun with pessimism.

Riechmann has also received a large number of awards for his poetry including the Hiperión Prize in 1987 for his book Cántico de la erosión, the prize at the Madrid Book Fair in 1993, the National Villafranca del Bierzo prize in 1996, the International Gabriel Celaya prize in 2000 and the prize of the City of Mérida in 2008.

Probably his most famous work is Cántico de la erosión in which he combines the foundations of realism with expressionist images. The book revolves around three main concerns: personal identity, social phenomena, and ecological worries. Meanwhile in El corte bajo la piel from 1994, Riechmann reflects ironically on existence, contemplates on daily life and reports on the faults that exist in late-capitalism. It is for this politically charged kind of poetry that Riechmann is so famous.

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