Selected Poems by Federico García Lorca -- Poetry Review

Selected Poems: Federico García Lorca
Translated by Martin Sorrell 

"Death laid its eggs in the wound." -- from Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejía
"My shadow deprives the frogs / of stars." -- from Debussy
"The first time I didn't know you / The second time I did." -- from In the Institute and In the University
"A tiny, tiny heart / is growing from my fingers." -- from Prelude
"The tall light / plays chess with the window blind." -- from The Gypsy Nun

These are only some of the lines which repeatedly floored me. Federico García Lorca, who I met through the recommendation of a professor, writes playful poetry, youthful poetry--but serious poetry, made up of the very gristle and potency of life. Poetry that merges the boundaries between animate and inanimate, which takes imaginative leaps, isn't afraid to introduce excrement, death, wounds, and eerie, haunting images -- In the jasmine an elephant and clouds/and in the bull the girl’s skeleton.

I can't vouch for the translation as I only know and thus only read the English, but the original poems in Spanish are placed side by side with the translations for those who are interested in reading the original. These poems were important to me, despite this selection emphasizing Lorca's lesser known work, lesser anthologized. It still remains full of the symbols and vibrancy that made up his persona and the rest of his work. He was the quintessential Spanish poet, whose imagery extended to the history of Spain, even to the point of referencing and utilizing the qasida*. Cultural links abound, references to bull fighting --his best friend died doing this sport-- to literature and more. To me however, the most poignant images were those of nature--the April sky turns my eyes indigo--the sort of immense infinity felt by the utter beauty, splendor, and quiet magnitude of the physical world. 

Like this, imagine the golden girl/bathed in the water/the water turned gold. These poems often reminded me of the poetry of Pablo Neruda, or even Rainer Maria Rilke--Romantic poetry, even sensual poetry, but sensual in a religious, spiritual or devout way, full of longing and impossibility and the sheer grandness of scale--of God, or of a girl named Lucia Martinez

I am here, Lucía Martínez,
here to consume your mouth
and drag you by the hair
into the seashell dawn.

                               -- from Lucía Martínez

Mostly these are the poems of someone whose poetry stems from the friction of life, someone whose pulse throbs so visibly, who tastes with so much zeal, who implores that should I die, keep the balcony open.

I heartily recommend this selection to anyone who takes an interest in poetry, especially French Symbolist poets such as Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Verlaine, Charles Baudelaire, or even Pablo Neruda, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Emily Dickinson.  I only rated this in the 80s because there were a handful of poems which I thought were out of place, were a little rambling and seemed to list images without any real beauty or purpose. Incidentally, those were the poems which are considered his more famous poems (the poems written in his hated visit to New York, for example).

* Note: qaṣīdaᵗ (also spelled qaṣīda; in Arabic: قصيدة, plural qasā'id, قــصــائـد; in Persian: قصیده or چكامه, chakameh, in Turkish: kaside), is a form of lyric poetry that originated in pre-Islamic Arabia. Qasida means "intention" and the genre found use as a petition to a patron.

A qasida has a single presiding subject, logically developed and concluded. Often it is a panegyric, written in praise of a king or a nobleman, a genre known as madīḥ, meaning "praise".


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