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Federico Garcia Lorca: Poems & Biography

Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca built a successful literary career. His work is rich with the cultural history of the deep song. In this lesson, we will cover Federico Garcia Lorca's biography and the main characteristics of his poetry.

Background

Perhaps the most powerful Spanish poet of our time, Federico García Lorca was an accomplished musician, poet, playwright, and artist. His first collection of poetry was published in 1919. He went on to be internationally recognized, and was a member of the emblematic group Generacion del 27. In this lesson, we will look at García Lorca's life and examine the main characteristics of his poetry.

Biography

Federico García Lorca was born in Fuente Vaqueros, a small town outside of Granada, on June 5, 1898. His mother was an accomplished pianist and his father owned a farm in the rich vega around Granada. Both of his parents were very successful.

García Lorca attended Sacred Heart University where he studied law. At the age of 21, he published his first book 'Impresiones y Viajes'. Deciding to leave the university in order to devote his time to his art, he traveled to Madrid where he lived for the next 15 years.

During his time in Madrid, he wrote many plays, published Libro de poemas, and became a member of the Generacion del 27. His involvement with the group connected him to Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel, who introduced García Lorca to surrealism.

García Lorca moved to New York City in 1929, where he thrived in the Harlem neighborhood's culture because it reminded him of the 'deep song' tradition of Spain. After a year, he returned to Spain and, while there, he participated in the Second Ordinary Congress of the Federal Union of Hispanic Students. His three prominent tragedies Bodasde sangre, Yerma, and La Casa de Bernarda Alba were produced by the famous traveling theater company 'La Barraca'.

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 jail. Several days later, he was executed and buried in an unmarked grave. After his death, General Francisco Franco, leader of the fascist regime banned García Lorca's works in Spain until his death in 1970.

Poetry Characteristics

Andalusian Folk Music

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 style of Flamenco. It is the most serious style of song within the tradition.

The deep song is about suffering, and García Lorca's work is full of 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 the feeling of angst that would be used in a traditional cante jondo.

Symbolism

Federico García Lorca's poetry uses symbolism to convey feelings about death, love, vitality, fertility, and tragedy. Oftentimes, death was the prominent topic of his poetry. The most common symbols in the bulk of his work include the moon, water, blood, horses, grasses, and metals.

For example, in The Ballad of the Moon the moon and horsemen are used to symbolize the death and afterlife of a young boy. The poem opens with,

'The moon came into the forge

in her bustle of flowering nard.

The little boy stares at her, stares.'

Here, the moon has cast a spell on the young boy, and her beauty enraptures him. That beauty is a device used by García Lorca to build the transition between life and death as full of wonder. 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 of the horseman on the grass symbolizes the boy's death. The separation 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.

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