The Silent Letter by Jaume Subirana
Translated by Christopher Whyte

As I mentioned many times last year on the Ramblings, one of the good points about 2020 (and it’s worth hanging on to them… ) was the discovery of so many independent publishers new to me. I have taken out subscriptions to several and today I want to share my first read of a book from one of these – Fum D’Estampa. Based in London and Barcelona, they focus on translations from the Catalan, and have issued 6 titles so far, a mixture of prose and poetry. I have several on the TBR (ahem!) and my first read from them is a poetry collection by an award-winning poet, translator and academic – Jame Subirana. He’s apparently one of Catalonia’s most treasured and prize-winning writers, so I was really glad to be able to make his acquaintance.

Translated by Christopher Whyte, an accomplished poet in his own right, the book is a dual language edition collecting together a number of poems. As I know nothing about the author or his publishing history I was able to approach the book rather like my readings of the Penguin Modern Poets, just discovering the work without preconceptions – which I do like! And what a treat reading this book was…

Subirana’s poetry is very immediate, something I love; and his works range in length from haiku length verses to longer works stretching over several pages. The poet discusses love, life, nature, loss – the usual subjects you’d expect. I suppose – and in beautiful, elegant and evocative lines. I marvelled, as I often do, as to how a poet can capture so much in so few words, convey so much that’s actually not spelled out in their verses. The poems read to me as the work of a mature writer, and this conviction was confirmed when I read the essay on Subirana at the end of the book, by Jordi Galves. Interestingly, the latter says of the poet, “…he speaks to me of myself while apparently writing about himself…” and I think that’s the most wonderful description of what poetry can do that I’ve heard.

It’s hard to pick out favourites here, as “The Silent Letter” is such a strong collection; but I would mention “The Trees and Us”, focusing on the transience of life; “Like That”, encapsulating a whole life in a few lines; “Tomorrow”, about the rapid passing of time; and “Dusk” which some beautiful imagery equating life with words. But really, the whole collection spoke to me and I loved it.

My Fum d’Estampa collection!

Fum d’Estampa were a chance find for me; if I recall correctly, someone recommended them on Twitter and I couldn’t resist (and am very glad I didn’t) Catalonian literature, and the authors the imprint publishers, are not necessarily things I would have found on my own; but this wonderful collection absorbed and transported me, and it’s proof (if it were needed) that independent publishers are really the ones to watch. Fum d’Estampa books are very lovely too; with creamy coloured covers, French flaps and quality paper, they’re beautiful objects in their own right and will look very pretty sitting on a shelf together… This was a great start to my #readindie reading and I’m anticipating more joy with the rest of their books! 😀

Fum d’Estampa can be found on Patreon and also online here.