THE RELEVANT QUEER: Poet Emilio Prados, Born March 4, 1899

From left to right, Manuel Altolaguirre, Salvador Dalí, Gala Éluard & Emilio Prados in the beach of Málaga.

“My hand is beautiful, my tongue is beautiful, my skin is beautifyl and my sin is beautiful.”

TRQ: Emilio Prados, Born March 4, 1899

Poet Emilio Prados, member of the Generacion de 27, was born in Málaga to relatively wealthy parents. However, ill with lung disease at the age of twelve, Prados was sent to recover in Málaga’s mountains. There he would meet Antonio Rios, a shepherd who would make important appearances in Prado’s writing. 

Prados studied at the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid from 1918 to 1920. The poets Juan Ramon Jimenez and Antonio Machado became his mentors. Prado’s social circle also included poet Federico Garcia Lorca. 

In 1921, a worsening of his lung disease lead Prados to enter the Davosplatz sanatorium in Switzerland. During convalescence, Prado immersed himself in European literature. The following year, Prado went on to study philosophy at universities in Freiburg and Berlin. Afterwards, he travelled through Germany to Paris, where he met Picasso. 

Returning to Málaga, Prado created the magazine Litoral with poet Manuel Altolaguirre using the printing press inherited from his father. Together they became Spain’s most important editors of poetry. Prado also worked as an editor for Sur publishing house, the primary publisher of the Generacion de 27. 

Litoral brought together the avant-garde of poetry, music and painting. Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Jorge Guillén, Moreno Villa, Manuel de Falla, Ángeles Ortiz and Federico García Lorca were some of its legendary collaborators. In 1937 Prados won the Spanish National Award of Poetry. 

Much of Prado’s writing is personal and written in first-person. However, during Spain’s revolutionary era, Prados increasingly wrote in support of the Second Spanish Republic and about the Spanish Civil War. His work became more political. In 1938 he and Altolaguirre moved to Barcelona to manage publications for the Republican Ministry of Public Instruction. 

After the Nationalists won the Civil War, however, Prados was one of many Republicans to flee Spain. He first took to Paris, but then in July of 1939 he joined many Republican intellectuals in relocating to Mexico. Prados lived in Mexico City for twenty-two years. 

In Mexico, Prados permanently returned to writing about the personal. He wrote many love poems that made no reference to heterosexuality. He rejected poetic traditions based on heterosexual uses of language in his work, and extensively developed his own conventions and metaphors. 

At the same time, Prados does populate his writing with queer characters and motifs found also in the work of Garcia Lorca, Luis Vernuda, Salvador Novo, and Xavier Villaurrutia. Angels and sailors are linked with birds, handkerchiefs, espuma (foam or sperm), derramar (spread or ejaculate), candles and snails. Because of its use of language and its coding as closeted poetry, his work is challenging to readers. “Negacion” (Denial) from Tiempo, his first book, may be read as homoerotic. Cuerpo Perseguido (Pursued Body) is more explicitly homoerotic, even though it lacks references to physical love. Scholars suggest that Prados, like many gay writers in history, was dedicated to understanding his ideas and desires from within his closeted world. 

Prados died in Mexico City, in 1962. In 1966, Prado’s intimate diary was found in Málaga. It was published with help from his friend, the poet and critic José Luis Cano. Ten years later, Poetries was published. 



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