Federico Garcia Lorca - Spain's most important 20th century poet

Photo of Federico Garcia Lorca.
Photo of Federico Garcia Lorca. | Source
Where Lorca was believed to be buried and which his family had excavated searching for his remains that were never found.
Where Lorca was believed to be buried and which his family had excavated searching for his remains that were never found. | Source

Andalucian Spanish Guitar

1898 - 1936

Federico del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus Garcia Lorcawas a Spanish 20th century poet, dramatist and theatre director and the most important Spanish poet and dramatist of the 20th century. He was internationally recognized as a member of Generation of '27, a group of artists that exposed him to surrealism. Lorca became another casualty of the Spanish Civil War when he was executed by the fascists at the beginning of the war.

He was born in Fuente Vaqueros, a small town near Granada in Southern Spain in the region of Andalusia. He grew up here and embraced the fierce passion for the Andalusian and Spanish culture of flamenco, gypsies, and bullfighting. He epitomizes the culture of his country and lyrically and poetically expressed this Spanish passion so well in this writings, that Spain considers him their greatest and most important poet.

During high school, he was traveling on an extended field trip with his class to Madrid when the world opened up for him. In Madrid, he embraced all that the capital city of Spain had to offer; the museums, the art, the poetry, the passion of the city. When he returned home, his teacher recommended to his parents that he attend the Residencia de estudiantes, a progressive Oxbridge-inspired school in Madrid. So in 1919, he went off the this school in Madrid.

Here Lorca met and befriended Manuel de Falla, Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali and other creative artists who would become influencial across Spain. He became particularly close ot Salvador Dali. Many believe they entered into an intimate, passionate relationship. Dali once said that his friendship with Lorca had a strong element of mutual passion but he rejected the erotic advances of the poet. So, you figure it out!

In the meantime, regardless of any personal relationship he and Dali did or did not have, he wrote some early plays that were not well accepted by the public or the artists and in 1921 he wrote and published his first book of poetry. Libro de Poemas (Book of Poems) was a compilation of poems based on Spanish folklore. After the publication of this poetry book, Lorca became involved in Spain's avant - garde.

In 1928, he published two poetry collections - probably the most important of his career. He published "Canciones" (Songs) and "Romancero Gitano" (Gypsy Ballads). It is this second one that became his best known book of poetry. It is full of gypsy culture and flamenco, the folkloric dance of Andalusia. It is a highly stylized written work of the ballads and poems that were still being told throughout the Spanish countryside. Many of these poems from Andalusia had been in existence since the Middle Ages. Lorca described the poetry as, "a carved altar piece" of Andalusia with gypsies, horses, archangels, planets, breezes, rivers, crimes, "where the hidden Andalusia trembles".

This book, "Gypsy Ballads", brought him fame across Spain and the entire Hispanic world. The resto of his life, Lorca would search for the elements of Andaluce culture, trying to find its essence without resorting to the "picturesque" or cliched "local color." He was trying to find the earth of Andalusia and its people and culture.

With the success of "Gypsy Ballads" came a rift and estrangement from Salvador Dali and a breakdown of a love affair with sculptor, Emilio Soriano Aladren. This brought on a depression and anguish over his homosexuality. He felt he was trapped between his public persona of a successful author which he was forced to maintain in public and his tortured, authentic self, which he could only acknowledge in private.

His family was so concerned about his mental health that in 1929-30 they arranged form him to take a long visit to New York City. Here, he enrolled in Columbia University School of General Studies. He studied English but was really more absorbed by writing. In the Harlem section of NYC, Lorca found connection between the Spanish deep songs and African-American spirituals he heard here an his Andalusian poetry.

His "Poeta in Nueva York",(A Poet in New York), published after his death in 1942, is full of tortured, ambiguious and deliberately dissonant surrealist poems. They explore the alienation and isolation through some graphically experienced poetic techniques.

He returned to Spain in 1930, which also coincided with the re-establishment of the Spanish Republic. Upon his return, Lorca was appointed and as director of a university student theater company, La Barraca, which he helped to co-found. It toured Spain's cities and rural areas to introduce audiences to radical modern interpretations of classic Spanish theatre. After his work in NYC and Harlem, Lorca had been transformed in to a passionate advocate of the theatre of social action.

It was during his time touring with this theatre that he wrote his best plays, "Blood Wedding", "Yerma" and "The House of Bernarda Alba." All three plays reblled against the norms of bourgeois Spanish society. These works challenged the accepted role of women in society and explored taboo issues of homoeroticism and class.

By 1936, Lorca wrote and published. "Sonnets to his dark love." These were believed to have been inspired by his passion for Rafael Rodriguez Rapun, but recent documents discovered in 2012, suggest the actual inspiration was Juan Ramirez de Lucas, a 19 year old with whom Lorca hoped to immigrate to Mexico. The actual sonnet writing was inspired by the 16th century poet, San Juan de la Cruz.

Lorca left Madrid for Granada three days before the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936. He knew he would be suspect to the rising right wing, the fascists, for his outspoken liberal views. He refused to hide his liberal views or homosexuality, while continuing to write. He was arrested by the Nationalists militia (Francisco Franco's side) and was executed on August 19, 1936. He was executed with three others at Fuente Grande (Great Fountain) on the road , between Viznar and Alfacar.

In 2009 and 2012, Lorca's family had the grave excavated, but his remains have never been found. It is a mystery today as to where his burial remains really are located and / or buried.

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Lorca's poetry and plays

Romancero Gitano (Gypsy Ballads) is Lorca's great work of poetry that shows us his great passion for Andalusia. Here he describes for us his beloved Andalusia and Spain, but especially Andalusia, the region from which he comes. This collection of poetry is profoundly Analusian and the poems are richly somber in their mood and imagry and disquieting in their projection of a part-primitive, part-private world of myth moved by dark and not precisely identifiable forces. The poems express his personal anguish as well as a superb rhythmical nd linguistic sense.

"The Guitar"

The weeping of the guitar

begins,

The goblets of dawn

are smashed.

The weeping of the guitar

begins.

Useless

to silence it.

Imossible

to silence it.

It weeps monotonously

as water weeps

over snowfields.

Impossible

to silence it.

It weeps for distant

things.

Hot southern sands

Yearning for white camelias,

Weeps arrow without target

evening without morning

and the first dead bird

on the branch.

Oh guitar!

Heart mortally wounded

by five swords.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


"Song of the Barren Orange Tree"

Woodcutter,

Cut my shadow from me

Free me from the torment

of seeing myself without fruit.


Why was I born among mirrors?

The day walks in circles around me,

and the night copies me

in all its stars


I want to live without seeing myself.

And I will dream that ants

and the thistleburrs are my

leaves and my birds


Woodcutter.

Cut my shadow from me.

Free me from the torment

of seeing myself without fruit.

Blood Wedding

Federico Garcia Lorca was also a great playwright, although he got off to a shakey start. In 1919-20 he wrote and staged his first play,"The Butterfly's Evil Spell." It was written in a verse / play form, but it was unsuccessful and closed after four performances. It was not just unsuccessful, it was laughed out of Madrid by the critics. Lorca, had a very hard time accepting this and it was not until 1927 that he tried his hand at playwrighting again. This time with, "Mariana Pineda", he was successful and the play was very popular at the time. Both of his plays were folk tragedies.

When he returned from his year in NYC, and while touring with La Barraca, he wrote his best three plays, one of which was Blood Wedding. I have read this play in Spanish, and it is a tragedy written in 1932, and performed in Madrid in 1933. After its run in Madrid, it played in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where it was greatly received and very popular. This play was part of a rural trilogy along with "Yerma" and "The House of Bernarda Alba." These are Lorca's best three plays he has written.

As I said, Blood Wedding is a tragedy and also a look at feminism, Lorca style. There are many themes in the play and some of them are:

  • The cycle of life and progression of time are illustrated by the simple fact that the entire play is devoted to a wedding.
  • Choices we make in life are illustrated by the characters of Leonardo, the bride, and the bridgegroom in the choices they make throughout the play. The bride is conflicted because she forces herself to marry the bridegroom when in reality she is passionately in love with Leonardo. Leonardo, despite being married, is still deeply in love with the bride. Their combined choice is to run away with each other after the marriage because of the latent and pent-up desires from their previous relationship. The bridegroom still loves his bride.
  • Deception ties into the theme of choices we make. The bride masks her true love for Leonardo and manipulates the bridegroom to distract herself from Leonardo's passion for her and hers for Leonardo.
  • Fate enters into the choice on the bride's part to marry the bridegroom, despite the fact that she still loves Leonardo and this causes the outcome of the deaths of both men in the end of the play.
  • Irony is also a theme as the woman tries to choose both men, only to lose both men in the end.
  • Nature is a theme because there are references to nature throughout the play. Moon, trees, river, death, beggar woman, vineyard, orange blossoms all enter into nature and this theme. The references to nature reinforce the face that the play is based on a true story.

Blood Wedding is a skewed story and an original work that holds the attention of the audience in a death grip which was the style if Lorca.


Copyright (c) 2012 Suzannah Wolf Walker all rights reserved


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Comments 24 comments

Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 4 years ago from San Francisco

Great report! Thank you


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Mhatter: Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I'm glad you enjoyed this.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 4 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

I find your brief historical biographies interesting. You have a knack of picking out interesting people and their times.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Well, I am so glad you enjoy these, mckbirdbks. I enjoy reading your Emerald Cafe series. You never run out of great poetry or story ideas. Thank you for visiting!


Mike Robbers profile image

Mike Robbers 4 years ago from London

suzettenaples Im so happy to see a hub dedicated to Federico Garcia Lorca! it is an excellent presentation of a poet that I deeply appreciate..

thanks a lot, I will soon read as many as possible of your hubs - they all seemed quite fascinating and really close to my interests :)


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Mike: So glad you enjoyed this. I think Lorca is Spain's greatest writer and poet. He really gets to the heart and passion of Spain and brings that out in his poetry. I am so glad you enjoyed reading this. Thanks for your comments - most appreciated!


chef-de-jour profile image

chef-de-jour 3 years ago from Wakefield, West Yorkshire,UK

Many thanks for this Lorca hub, nice to see some of his poems in full. You've given some basic details about his early life too, his formative years.

I was lucky enough to spend 6 months living in a mountain cortijo in Andalucia, in the Alpujarras. The nearest town, Lanjaron, has wonderful fresh water drinking taps, in tiled enclosures. These tiles have Lorca poems written on them - beautiful to drink snow melt and read a poem!!

Votes and shares!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Chef: I am so glad you enjoyed this hub and you enjoy Lorca. Thank you so much for stopping by to read this. Your experience in Spain sounds fantastic! I love Spain and have spent many summers there. I would be so interested in seeing the tiles in Lanjaron. How wonderful to drink the spring water and read a poem - you are right. What a transcendental experience that would be. Thanks for the votes and the shares! I will check out your hubs next!


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 3 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Voted up and interesting. Thanks for sharing this fascinating hub. Passing this on.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 3 years ago

Very well done! Garcia Lorca is one of my favorites. I used to practice my Spanish pronunciation and intonation to a tape of his poetry.

The "Ballad of the Spanish Civil Guard" may have contributed to his murder. Here are a few lines from it:

Black are the horses.

The horseshoes are black.

On the dark capes glisten'

stains of ink and wax.

Their skulls are leaden,

which is why they don't weep.

With their patent leather souls

they come down the street.

Hunchbacked and nocturnal,

where they go, they command

silences of dark rubber

and fears like fine sand.

They pass where they want,

and they hide in their skulls

a vague astronomy

of shapeless pistols.

"Patent leather souls" says it all!

His antipathy toward the Guardia Civil is illustrated in another of his poems, "Romance Sonambulo," another of my favorites;

"...The night became as intimate

as a little square.

Drunken Civil Guards

were knocking at the door.

Green, how much I want you green.

Green wind, green branches.

The ship upon the sea.

And the horse on the mountain."

Who knows what Garcia Lorca would have accomplished if his life had not been cut so short.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Thank you so much Gypsy. I am so glad you enjoyed reading this. Thanks for the pass!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Ralph: I am so glad you enjoyed reading this and I think it is great that you practiced Spanish pronunciation by his poems on record or tapes. How wonderful. This poem of his you sent along is great and it sounds like he is writing it as the Civil Guard is coming to take him away. You are so right, it is so sad that his life was cut so short. But, his poetry has made him immortal so what did the Spanish Civil Guard (Franco) gain? I wrote this because I hadn't read his works since college - I remember reading Blood Wedding and some of his poetry, but the poem you included was a new one to me. Thanks so much for your visit and your enthusiasm.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 3 years ago from California

Beautiful! And it seems that music influenced him--yes??


brownella profile image

brownella 3 years ago from New England

Fascinating article. I had heard of Federico Garcia Lorca but had never read anything by him, the poems quoted by you and the comments are beautiful, I will definitely have to read him now. Thanks for the introduction :)


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Audrey: Yes, music influenced him. He was quite into the music, rhythm, dance, passion and creative expressions of Andalucia, which he felt was the area that was the heartbeat of Spain. Thank you so much for reading this and I am glad you enjoyed it.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

brownella: Thank you so much for your visit and I'm glad you enjoyed reading and discovering Lorca. I do hope you read more of him - he really is a great Spanish poet, cut short before his time.


TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

TIMETRAVELER2 3 years ago

Verde, que the quiero verde I never forgot those lines from his poem...magnificent!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

TimeTraveler2: Fantastico! I am so glad you enjoyed reading this and appreciated his poetry. I know I do.


TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

TIMETRAVELER2 3 years ago

I was a Spanish major in college and just loved his passionate writing.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

TimeTraveler2: So was I, a Spanish major that is. I love his poetry, it is so beautiful and he catches the Andalusian spirit and passion so well. Thanks so much for your comments. Most appreciated.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 3 years ago

I didn't major in Spanish, but I spent several summers in Colombia and took three years of Spanish in college.

Pablo Neruda is also one of my favorites. Also, Jose Asuncion Silva, Colombia's number one poet at the time.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Ralph: I also love Pablo Neruda. Actually I should write a hub about him also - I hope you enjoyed Colombia - it sounds fascinating and I haven't heard of Silva before. Have to look into him too. Thanks so much for your comments - most appreciated.


jhamann profile image

jhamann 2 years ago from Reno NV

A incredible hub about a poet whose words deserve to be remembered. Jamie


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Jamie: Thank you for reading and I am glad you enjoyed this. Yes, his poetry and plays are wonderful and he will always be remembered in Spanish literature. So sad he was executed by Franco. That there is such evil in the world is so sad.

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