Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Federico Garcia Lorca

Maybe I should have written my first post about Lorca, for when one considers poetry as a substitute for everything else, and elegy as the first and last word, then one must begin with Lorca, poet of elegies, sadness, melancholy, and beauty. In Lorca's poetry are embedded images, wine, sorrow, drowsiness, breathlessness, heartache, pain, numbness and sadness, melancholy and desire.

Lorca is the quintessential poet of celebrating the art of evoking abscence, the dead poet, silence, loss, tragedy. His poetry celebrates the inability to express our longings, for the poet too can struggle to do so, even if the poet is Lorca. In the excellent introduction to Lorca's poems in the penguin edition, Lorca is described rightly as the poet of desire. All his poems are driven by longing, from humans to the animal world, by longing and want.

Lorca's life and some important events are well known. Born in Spain in 1898, Lorca's family moved from Andalusia to Granada and then he moved to Madrid. He was always attached to the country side however. In Madrid, Lorca read many leading poets and writers, and showed a deep attachment to music too. He formed a very close friendship with Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel and he would spend time at Dali's home in Catalonia. He was quite close to Dali, and celebrated it in his ode to Salvador Dali. By 1927, Lorca had written and published substantial amounts of poetry and drama. In 1928, the publication of Gypsy Ballads brought him success and fame but also failure in his personal life as a lover.

Lorca spent a year in the USA and published his most difficult poems as Poet in New York afterwards. Returning to Spain, Lorca published his great dramas and poetry but in the Spanish war of 1936, Lorca knew that he was falling foul of Franco's regime. Lorca was murdered and his work banned. The reasons could be his criticism of fascism, Catholicism and monarchism. Lorca had written earlier that nobody shoots poets but was tragically wrong in this instance.

Lorca is the poet of the dark night, of dark nights that are born of many dark nights. He celebrates elegies, he revels in elegies, all his poems are elegies, his celebrations of love or nature or whatever he choose to describe are relentless odes to the lost, the forever lost. Lorca is the quintessential poet of loss. It is understandable how Lorca might be an emblem for those in exile or those who think they are in exile. Thus he is the exile' saviour, the patron saint of exile. In Lorca's poetry, gloom and doom are not only to be sought after, they must be lived through, for in that very elusive hour when poetry is born and the dust of time drops off our mortal order, poets like Lorca shine the light of sorrow on us. Only this sorrow is more like joy.

There are too many poems of Lorca's that can be mentioned but his Ghazals, Ballads, The Faithless Wife and his Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias are simply magnificent. "Great art", wrote Lorca, "is only possible when the creator is acutely aware of death". He called it the duende. The duende is born of death, its contemplation, its wounds. It, as his critics tell us, is an awareness of death. And in this awareness alone, true elegies are written.

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