Federico García Lorca: Poet in New York


By Jerry Portwood

The gay Spanish poet is remembered for his time in the city

Federico García Lorca's passport. Spain, June 1929

Perhaps most people in the United States are familiar with Lorca because of his classic play, The House of Bernarda Alba, but it's his friendship with Luis Buñuel and passionate involvement with Salvador Dali and the subsequent output of Lorca's avant-garde poetry that have remained vivid for generations since his murder during the Spanish Civil War (including a recent movie, Little Ashes, starring Robert Pattinson as Dalí in which he kisses the actor who plays Lorca).

Now those familiar with the poet and playwright—or just curious to understand more about one of the most important openly gay poets of the 20th century—have the opportunity to see many of his works up close and discover why he continues to inspire adulation among contemporary audiences. Since April 5, the largest-ever festival in North America celebrating the life and work of Spanish poet Federico García Lorca, Lorca in NY, has been taking place. It continues through July 21, with an exhibition at the New York Public Library, Back Tomorrow: Federico García Lorca/ Poet in New York, that includes artwork, archival materials, and photographs and focuses on Lorca's brief but productive stint after his estrangement from Dalí.

Struggling to live both as a public figure and a homosexual, he he came to New York City to write. He wrote about his first impressions—a boat trip to Coney Island on the 4th of July, his first encounter with a huge urban crowd—Harlem, even an ode to Walt Whitman after meeting with fellow poet Hart Crane. He also witnessed the Wall Street crash of 1929 and wrote about that as well. Ultimately, he produced one of his most provocative collections, Poet in New York, far different from his earlier work, putting aside the "riddle of metaphor," that was finally published posthumously in 1942 and is currently available in a new, expanded bilingual edition.

As Laura García Lorca, his niece and president of the Federico García Lorca Foundation, which is organizing this festival, explained when we talked with her, this is a very personal project for her as well. "I'm quite happy that New York is the first place for this exhibit, apart from personal reasons like because I was born here," she said, with obvious emotion, as tears welled up in her eyes. "He came here, the book started here, so it makes sense that he would return here in some significant way."

This festival was meant to be the first event for the Lorca Center in Granada, Spain, which is nearly finished but needs to raise funds to finish the final bits of construction, and Laura Lorca is still optimistic will open soon (currently, the only space dedicated to Lorca in Granada is the Huerta de San Vicente). 

In the coming weeks, including a June 4 Live from the NYPL with appearances by John Giorno, Will Keen, Philip Levine, Paul Muldoon, and Patti Smith. The following day Patti Smith performs a concert with guests artists in honor of the poet's birthday. Then on June 10 Paul Auster, Aracelis Girmay, John Giorno, Wayne Koestenbaum, and others will read from Poet in New York at Saint Mark's Church. 

For complete information on the exhibit and a list of activities and events visit LorcaNYC.com

See images, artwork, and materials on view on the following pages.

Tags: Art & Books