Under the spell of a neighborhood
(a poem spelled out in cantos)

(Translated from the Catalan by Ronald Puppo)

The poet Josep Pedrals talks to us about his neighborhood in a poem.

Illustration: Judit Canela

Illustration: Judit Canela


The neighborhood known as Els Encants
stirs with a good-feeling sort of bustle,
the call of its flea market’s measured hustle
and sheer life energy hold us entranced.
My grandfather, looking to make his stand,
took to the place with a settler’s faith:
if on a map of the city we trace
a target, it’s Barcelona’s bull’s-eye;
Gran Via, Diagonal and Meridiana comply—
here three great boulevards share one space.


Staked out between Poblet and Poble Nou,
Fort Pienc and Clot, it thrives and abounds
in bric-a-brac from Bellcaire, the old-town
market fair, and the newer Encants Nous.
The most unlikely of hubs you’re sure to know,
this uncanny crossroads is a must,
bound and determined to open a path just
to become nobody knows quite what.
The town hall can’t seem to get Glòries worked out
for all the years that they’ve fiddled and fussed.


Every few years an accessory appears;
inexorable change comes slow, but sure:
one year gives birth to the National Theatre,
after a time the Auditorium is here,
and the Design Museum too… the gears
of chronic change are set into motion;
the sedentary turns to locomotion,
and firmest ground but shifting sands.
To the homeless here no special grants,
everyone is touched, swept up in the commotion.


My grandfather’s foresight comes into its own
as we carry serenely the burden and weight
of the restless everyday press and pace,
as we play, from the sidelines, a central role.
Here life, by meantimes, comes and goes
in layers of future ineptly overlaid:
the charm of a sidewalk, graceless and gray
with blades of grass between the slabs.
The neighborhood known as Els Encants
blends into other vestiges of cityscape.

Josep Pedrals


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