Poet in New York (Poeta en Nueva York) consists of 35 poems divided into ten sections that follow his travels and experiences in the United States and Cuba: Poems of Loneliness at Columbia University, The Negroes, Streets and Dreams, Double Poem of Lake Eden Mills, At the Farmer’s Cabin, Introduction to Death. Poems of Loneliness in Vermont, Back to the City, Two Odes, Flight from New York. Two waltzes and The poet arrives in Havana.
Poet in New York is a book that constructs the poetic image of a subject in crisis. Personal, social and even literary crisis (Lorca was a little tired of being the poet of the Gypsy Ballads). The subject in crisis is not only confronted by the capitalist system. Nature is not only confronted with civilization, with the mechanistic society, with the inhuman city, with the precarious conditions of existence. The poetic subject is confronted with the emptiness on which he has to build his identity.
In poems that turn out to be a fierce criticism against capitalism, religion or social conventions, symbols of open and ambivalent meaning point to the lack of a single, stable truth. Metaphors, visionary images, also show us the current accuracy of the book.
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.
Despite the distance -physical and temporal- some poems in Poeta en Nueva York (Poet in New York) have a close relationship with Granada and, in particular, with the garden of the house at Acera del Darro 60, to whih the Lorca family moved when they arrived in 1908 from Valderrubio.
Isabel, the poet’s sister, revealed in her memoirs all the Granada references contained in the poem 1910 Intermediate and, in particular, four of its lines: “¡Aquellos ojos míos en el cuello de la jaca [Those eyes of mine in the neck of the jackass], / en el seno traspasado de Santa Rosa dormida [in the pierced bosom of Santa Rosa asleep], / en los tejados del amor, con gemidos y frescas manos [on the roofs of love, with moans and fresh hands], / en un jardín donde los gatos se comían a las ranas [in a garden where the cats ate the frogs”]. “The neck of the jackass is undoubtedly that of the animal that [Federico] was forced onto when he was very young and did not want to walk. Santa Rosa was also in my house: it was a brightly colored print that Dolores [la Colorina, one of the maids] had in her room. The roofs of love are the ones we saw from the towers (…) and the cat that ate the frogs is our blond cat, the one that ate the little frog that I threw into the water of the jumping fountain in the garden”.
Federico García Lorca arrived in New York, accompanied by Fernando de los Ríos, on June 25, 1929, after a six-day voyage on the Olympic. During the voyage he wrote to his friend Carlos Morla Lynch, depressed, nostalgic, he says: “I do not know why I left; I ask myself a hundred times a day. I look at myself in the mirror of the cramped cabin and I don’t recognize myself. I look like another Federico.
In the fourteen letters that the poet wrote from New York and Havana to his parents, the story is toned down: “Dearest parents and brothers and sisters: Here I am in New York after a delightful and easy journey, thanks to Don Fernando, who has behaved so well towards me that everyone has taken him for my father. There is no greater affection or more solicitude, and you must all be grateful to him. I am very happy, overflowing with joy, and I have no other concern than to hear from you soon”. This is the first letter, dated June 28, 1929.
Federico de Onís enrolled Lorca at Columbia University and put him up in Furnald Hall. From his room he writes to his family: “The University is a prodigy. It is situated beside the Hudson River, in the heart of the city, on Manhattan Island, which is the best, very close to the large avenues (…) My room is on the ninth floor and overlooks the large sports field, with green grass and statues (…). It would be silly for me to express the immensity of the skyscrapers and the traffic. There’s no words that can describe them. In three of these buildings you can fit the whole of Granada. They are boxes that can hold 30,000 people” (June 28 1929).
The letters give an account of the new life, the new friends, the chance meeting with a neighbor from Fuente Vaqueros, the poems he is writing, the conferences he develops, the return of the expenses of the money that his parents have given him, the interest for his family, the concern for the oppositions of his admired brother Francisco (“tell Paco to write to me”), for his mother, to follow the family custom by going a few days to the Balneario de Lanjarón (Granada): “The fall of Lanjarón is beautiful. You take mom to Lanjarón whether she wants to or not. By force; and if she hasn’t gone or doesn’t go, it will be because I’m not there, I’m really insistent about things, but if she hasn’t gone, I’ll hold Conchita, Paco and Isabelita responsible if she gets colic, and I’ll be indignant all my life. Hugs, kisses, hugs. Federico).
The Invisible Half (RTVE): Poet in New York
Documentary on Poet in New York.
Documentary “Lorca. The sea stops still”.