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The Iberian Horseshoe — A Journey

Part IV. North East

Searching for the Source of Miquel Martí i Pol

Steve Porter
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Before leaving for Catalonia, I was browsing in an Edinburgh charity shop, when I came across a book entitled Vint-i-set poemes en tres temps i altres reculls. I had already begun studying Catalan and recognised the language. This book is by Miquel Martí i Pol, one of Catalonia’s most revered modern poets. I rescued the book from a shelf life of neglect.

Mayday. I’m in the hills between Torelló and Manlleu following the Ter downstream to Roda, a small industrial town where Martí i Pol was born in 1929. The tyres on my bicycle are getting very soft and I don’t know if they will hold out on the cobbled back roads beyond Manlleu. After stopping for a drink at yet another Romanesque church, and with not a soul in sight to guide me, I ride on in the faith that all roads lead somewhere.

Indeed it did—to a farm with a fierce Alsatian. I hurry out of there and link up with the river again. But due to my poor sense of direction, I no longer know if I am headed towards Roda or back to Manlleu. I stop off in a copse by the river and hope that intuition will show me the way. Of course, the Ter flows downstream to Roda without having to know its right from left. Only a little common sense is required on my part. Among the undergrowth is a narrow footpath and I carefully part the long grass with the soft front tyre on my bike. A man is shaving at the water’s edge, his chin lathered in foam, he taps his razor on a rock and the bristles and dead skin float down towards the town’s main bridge.

The old quarter of Roda is asleep above the river. A light but steady flow of traffic manoeuvres over the bridge. The town may have looked much like this in the days when Martí i Pol started work in the office of a local textile factory. He stayed there until the early nineteen seventies, when the onset of multiple sclerosis affected his ability to work in a declining industry. He has translated works by Simone de Beauvoir, Zola and Saint-Exupéry. The poet, like his river, remains a source of energy.

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Copyright ©Steve Porter, 2004
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Date of publicationSeptember 2007
Collection RSSGlobal Fiction
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