40 Poems by Miguel Hernández
With English translations by Michael Shade, and art works from the exhibition 40 Poemas (Orihuela 2010)
Miguel Hernández was born in Orihuela, a small town in the province of Alicante in the south-east of Spain, on 30 October 1910. As a child he read voraciously, and began to write poetry in his teens. In the early 1930's, he moved to Madrid, and by 1936 had had two books of poetry published.
In July 1936 elements of the Army staged a military coup; Civil War broke out, and soon afterwards he enlisted in the Republican Army. He became a cultural officer, and during the war years expressed the hopes and fears of the ordinary soldiers and their families in poems and newspaper articles.
When the war ended in early 1939 he attempted to return home to his wife and young son, but was soon captured and imprisoned. He was sentenced to death, but this was commuted to 30 years imprisonment. He continued writing, and his poems were smuggled out by his wife and friends when they came to visit him.
In prison his health deteriorated rapidly, but he did not receive appropriate medical care. As a result, he contracted tuberculosis and died, in prison, in March 1942.
To mark the centenary of his birth, commemorations and celebrations are being held in Orihuela, Alicante, and throughout Spain, as well as elsewhere in the world.
This website contains translations into English of some of his poems. Each translation is accompanied by the original Spanish, and there are also artists' interpretations, and audio or video recordings of readings or song versions, where available.
Michael Shade, 2010
drawn by fellow-prisoner Antonio Buero Vallejo in 1940