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Considered the most powerful Spanish poet of our time, Federico García Lorca was an accomplished musician, poet, and playwright. He published very young and was a member of Generacion del 27. I didn't come across Lorca until my later years in school, but he quickly became an important man in my life...and was included in my MFA thesis reading list. Read on for his bio and poetry.
Bio of Federico Garcia Lorca
On June 5, 1898, Federico García Lorca was born in Fuente Vaqueros, a small town outside of Granada. His mother was a wonderful pianist and his father owned a farm.
García Lorca attended Sacred Heart University where he studied law. In 1919, he published Impresiones y Viajes, his first book. He was 21. Lorca left the university to dedicate himself to art. He traveled to Madrid; he lived theer for 15 years. In Madrid, he wrote plays, published Libro de poemas, and became a member of the Generaciόn del 27. His involvement with Generaciόn del 27 connected him to Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel. Luis Buñuel introduced García Lorca to surrealism.
García Lorca moved to New York City in 1929. He loved Harlem's culture as it reminded him of the deep song tradition of Spain. Lorca returned to Spain a year later where he participated in the Second Ordinary Congress of the Federal Union of Hispanic Students. His famous tragedies Bodasde sangre, Yerma, and La Casa de Bernarda Alba’ were produced by La Barraca, a world famous theater company.
Due to García Lorca’s outspokenness during the Spanish Civil War, his life came to a tragic end. In 1936, he was arrested by Franquist soldiers and placed in prison. Lorca was executed and buried in an unmarked grave.
Characteristics of Lorca's Poetry
In ‘‘The Guitar’’, one of García Lorca’s most renowned poems, he uses several metaphors to answer why the guitar’s cry is impossible to hush. He says that the guitar cries, “For the sand of the incendiary South/ that begs for white camellias”, which stands for Andalusia. He also says, “for the first bird/ dead on the branch” to represent innocence lost.
Perhaps most provocative is how García Lorca turns the body shape of the guitar into a metaphor for the heart. He laments, “Oh guitar! / Heart sorely wounded/ by five swords.” The heart is wounded by grief.
A major component of his work is the influence of Spain’s cante jondo, or the deep song. The deep song is an Andalusian folk music style that is considered the vocal styling of Flamenco. It is the most serious song style.
Deep song is about suffering. García Lorca noted that the deep song is about complex rhythms, silence, and interruptions. For example, in ‘‘The Guitar’’ he writes, ‘The wineglasses of dawn/ are broken/ The cry of the guitar/ begins,” which enacts feelings of angst that would be used in a traditional cante jondo.
The most common symbols in Lorca's poetry include the moon, water, blood, horses, grasses, and metals. In "The Ballad of the Moon", the moon and horsemen symbolize the death and afterlife of a boy. The poem begins:
‘The moon came into the forge
in her bustle of flowering nard.
The little boy stares at her, stares.’
The moon has cast a spell on the boy. Her beauty mesmerizes him. Beauty is a device used to build a transitional bridge between life and death. And it is wondrous. Halfway through the poem, he writes,
‘Closer comes the horseman,
drumming on the plain.
The boy is in the forge;
his eyes are closed.’
The pounding on the grass signifies the boy’s death. The split between body and spirit has occurred. At last, the poem closes with,
‘The moon is climbing through the sky
with the child by the hand.
They are crying in the forge,
all the gypsies, shouting, crying.
The air is viewing all, views all.
The air is at the viewing.’
The young boy is being taken into the spirit world. Although the passing of the boy’s spirit feels peaceful, García Lorca elevates the moment with the grief of the gypsies as they realize that they boy is dead.
Ballad of the Moon