The poems are written between 1929 and 1930 according to Federico Garcia Lorca as some of them were written upon his return to Spain and others were revised and reworked for six years. He was shot in 1936 without having finished them.
He must have given his original to José Bergamín, director of Cruz y Raya, where it was to be published in 1936, according to studies by Miguel García-Posada. As Bergamín was not in his office, he left it on his desk with a note saying: “I will return tomorrow”. “It is a small piece of paper but it turns out that it contains a personal and general tragedy of Spain, because instead of returning the next day to calmly complete his manuscript, he went back to Granada, the coup d’état broke out and he was killed,” says Andrés Soria Olmedo. The Spanish princely edition saw the light in Mexico (Poet in New York. With four original drawings. Poem by Antonio Machado. Prolog by José Bergamín). The date of the colophon is June 15, 1940. According to Manuel Fernández-Montesinos (What lives inside us), the poet’s nephew, García Lorca’s family had to go to court to recover the manuscript from Rafaela Saavedra, who had taken steps to auction it at Christie’s, London. Sánchez-Montesinos showed up there on the day of the auction. It was October 1998. The authenticity was proven. There was a trial and the verdict went in favor of the Saavedra family. In 2003, the Federico García Lorca Foundation acquired the document at auction (London).
The poet was aware that Poet in New York was not easy to understand, so he delayed its publication for a long time. In 1933, he comments, “This book on New York that I brought back from my trip to the United States is one that I have not wanted to give to any of the publishers who have asked me for it. Later I will publish it; but first I want to make it known in the form of a lecture. I will read verses and explain how they have emerged. In other words, I will be reading and analyzing it at the same time.” The conference (it was not the only one he gave) took place for the first time in Madrid in 1932, and then the book was read again two years later in Buenos Aires, Montevideo and various cities in Spain. It was entitled A Poet in New York and was first published by the Lumen publishing house in 1965.