What is poetry?


Oct 28, 2006
In orbit
One more:

A poet of the thirteenth century

He looks over the laborious drafts
of that first sonnet (still to be so called),
the random scribbles cluttering the page -
terzains, quatrains promscuously scrawled.
Slowly he smoothes down angularities,
then stops. Has some faint music reached his sense,
notes of far-off nightingales relayed
out of some awesome future age hence?
Has he realiszed that he is not alone
and that Apollo, unbelievably arcane,
has made an archetype within him sing -
one crystal-clear and eager to absorb
whatever night conceals or day unveils:
labyrinths, mazes, enigmas, Oedipus King?

[FONT=&quot]Jorge Luis Borges

(Translation by Alan S. Trueblood; I replaced triads in the fourth line with the more obvious terzains.)

Borges, like Kavafis, often plays with (quasi-)historical themes, like he does here with an unnamed 13th century poet, referring in passing to the not yet existant sonnet - exactly the form he uses for this poem's structure.


Oct 28, 2006
In orbit
I'm currently working on the translation of a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, whom I have quoted once before; while it is unfinished, here's one that is:


Der Tod ist groß.
Wir sind die Seinen
lachenden Munds.
Wenn wir uns mitten im Leben meinen,
wagt er zu weinen
mitten in uns.


Great is death.
We are his
laughing mouth.
As we seem to be in the midst of our life
he dares to cry
within us.

[FONT=&quot]Rainer Maria Rilke, Das Buch der Bilder II, 1906

This is a difficult poem - something in which Rilke seems to specialize; while it only consists of three sentences, it deals with the effect of death on the living in an incisive way.

The first sentence is basically a statement, which is illustrated - and proven - by the two following ones.

In order to keep the exact intention of the poem I have dispensed with the rhyme which Rilke uses to great effect without any loss of meaning.

I turned around the word order in the first line, to prevent the reading of "Death is great", which would be wrong, as groß also can be translated as "large", and to keep the repetition intact (o-o becoming ea-ea) . The second sentence explains the first ("Great is death"), but also uses an intricate wordplay:

Wir sind die Seinen (We are his)
lachenden Munds. (laughing mouth.)

"die Seinen" literally means "the ones belonging to him", but it is immediately followed by "lachenden Munds" (genitive), which grammatically speaking is wrong. But Rilke is a poet, as is shown by his mastery of language here. He simply connects "his" with "laughing mouth", meaning the sentence can be read in two ways simultaneously - a grammatical impossibility, but Rilke turns it into poetic reality. In truth, I have never seen poetic liberty so clearly illustrated. And he does all this while using a minimum of words. So, in short: the poem is simultaneously crystal clear as well as enigmatic. Any poet who can do this with just six lines of verse can be called nothing short of a master.

The last line "mitten in uns" literally means "within the center of us"; I chose "within us", but "amidst us" might be just as good (or even better, as it keeps the repetition of "mitten" in the fourth and sixth line).



Oct 28, 2006
In orbit
Rilke is quite the universal poet, as is obvious from the sheer range and scope of subjects of his poetry; without doubt he is the greatest German poet of the 20th century.

I've been looking for English translations on the internet; a selection of some 100 poems can be found at:

A general introduction to Rilke, with plenty of references is available through Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainer_Maria_Rilke

Apart from poetry in German, which makes up the bulk of his work, he also wrote some good, though not remarkable, poems in French, essays and letters, which are also quite good.

Here's another one, in translation:


As if listening. Silence: a farness...
We stop and do not hear it anymore.
And he is star. And other great stars,
which we do not see, stand around him.

O he is everything. Really, will we wait,
for him to see us? Would he want to?
And if we'd throw ourselves down before him,
he would remain deep and slow as a beast.

For that, which pulls us to his feet,
that circles within him for millions of years.
He, who forgets what we experience
and who experiences what corrects us.

(Neue Gedichte, 1907)

By all standards a deep poem, I would say.


Puttin' on the Ritz
Jun 11, 2003
Thanks for your ongoing translations, JEELEN, I'm really enjoying them. :goodjob:


Oct 28, 2006
In orbit
One more poem of Rilke in translation - this was actually the first poem of his that struck me -; please bear in mind that my limited skills cannot do justice to the original. Rilke uses rhyme seemingly effortless, in such a way that if you read any of his poems it isn't distracting from what he tries to bring across. As the previous this is also taken from Neue Gedichte (New poems, 1907):

The panther

In the Jardin des Plantes, Paris

His gaze from the passing bars
has grown so tired, it holds no more.
To him it’s if there are a thousand bars
and beyond a thousand bars no more.

The smooth gait of supple strong trait
turning in o so small a circle
is as a dance of force around a centre,
holding a strong will dazed.

But rarely the pupil’s curtain
is lifted silently -. An image enters therein,
passes through the silence of tense limbs
and within the heart is no more.


Oct 28, 2006
In orbit
The following is an excerpt from a (Latin-)American poet, Derek Walcott (1930), and is another one of the tens of poems to be found on walls throughout my resident city, Leiden.

The poem is ambitious in scope. Walcott takes on Homer, Virgil, and also Dante, as the form of the poem is reminiscent of the Dante-invented terza rima. Themes presented in this poem include nostalgia, colonialism, historiography, homecoming, paternity, poetry, and love. If any theme binds the characters together, it is a universal human desire for communion with the past.
Walcott has also been praised for his rich and inventive use of language in Omeros. Walcott was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992. (Wikipedia quote from the Omeros entry.)


This was the shout on which each odyssey pivots,
that silent cry for a reef, or familiar bird,
not the outcry of battle, not the tangled plots

of a fishnet, but when a wave rhymes with one's grave,
a canoe with a coffin, once that parallel
is crossed, and cancels the line of master and slave.

Then an uplifted oar is stronger than marble
Caesar's arresting palm, and a swift outrigger
fleeter than his galleys in its skittering bliss.

(Omeros, Book 3, Chapter 30, Verse 2,
Faber & Faber, 1990)


Just a little bit mad
May 16, 2006
Tromsø, Norway
Du må ikke sove!

Spoiler :
Jeg våknet en natt av en underlig drøm,
det var som en stemme talte til meg,
fjern som en underjordisk strøm -
og jeg reiste meg opp: Hva er det du vil meg?
- Du må ikke sove! Du må ikke sove!
Du må ikke tro, at du bare har drømt!

Igår ble jeg dømt
I natt har de reist skafottet i gården.
De henter meg klokken fem imorgen!

Hele kjelleren her er full.
og alle kaserner har kjeller ved kjeller.
Vi ligger og venter i stenkolde celler,
vi ligger og råtner i mørke hull!

Vi vet ikke, hva vi ligger og venter,
og hvem der kan bli den neste, de henter.
Vi stønner, vi skriker - men kan dere høre?
Kan dere absolutt ingenting gjøre?

Ingen får se oss.
Ingen får vite, hva der skal skje oss.
Ennu mer:
Ingen kan tro, hva her daglig skjer!

Du mener, det kan ikke være sant,
så onde kan ikke mennesker være.
Der finnes da vel skikkelig folk iblant?
Bror, du har ennu meget å lære!

Man sa: Du skal gi ditt liv, om det kreves.
Og nu har vi gitt det - forgjeves, forgjeves!
Verden har glemt oss! Vi er bedratt!
Du må ikke sove mer i natt!

Du må ikke gå til ditt kjøpmannsskap
og tenke på hva der gir vinning og tap!
Du må ikke skylde på aker og fe
og at du har mer enn nok med det!

Du må ikke sitte trygt i ditt hjem
og si: Det er sørgelig, stakkars dem!
Du må ikke tåle så inderlig vel
den urett som ikke rammer deg selv!
Jeg roper med siste pust av min stemme:
Du har ikke lov til å gå der å glemme!

Tilgi dem ikke; de vet hva de gjør!
De puster på hatets og ondskapens glør!
De liker å drepe, de frydes ved jammer,
de ønsker å se vår verden i flammer!
De ønsker å drukne oss alle i blod!
Tror du det ikke? Du vet det jo!

Du vet jo, at skolebarn er soldater,
som stimer med sang over torv og gater,
og oppglødd av mødrenes fromme svik,
vil verge sitt land og vil gå i krig!

Du kjenner det nedrige folkebedrag
med heltemot og med tro og ære -
du vet, at en helt, det vil barnet være.
du vet, han vil vifte med sabel og flagg!

Og så skal han ut i en skur av stål
og henge igjen i en piggtrådvase
og råtne for Hitlers ariske rase!
Du vet, det er menneskets mening og mål!

Jeg skjønte det ikke. Nu er det for sent.
Min dom er rettferdig. Min straff er fortjent.
Jeg trodde på fremgang, jeg trodde på fred,
på arbeid, på samhold, på kjærlighet!
Men den som ikke vil dø i flokk
får prøve alene, på bøddelens blokk!

Jeg roper i mørket - å, kunne du høre!
Der er en eneste ting å gjøre:
Verg deg, mens du har frie hender!
Frels dine barn! Europa brenner!

Jeg skaket av frost. Jeg fikk på meg klær.
Ute var glitrende stjernevær.

Bare en ulmende stripe i øst
varslet det samme som drømmens røst:
Dagen bakenom jordens rand
steg med et skjær av blod og brann,
steg med en angst så åndeløs,
at det var som om selve stjernene frøs!

Jeg tenkte: Nu er det noget som hender. -
Vår tid er forbi - Europa Brenner!

I haven't found an English translation yet, unfortunately.


Just a little bit mad
May 16, 2006
Tromsø, Norway
That might help (as would mentioning the author).

Oh, sorry: It's Arnulf Øverland, and the title is "You must not sleep".

I don't think I can translate the poem and do it justice it deserves.


Oct 28, 2006
In orbit
Well, if you just translate the original words in English I can give it a try (you can PM me the words if you like).;)

Meanwhile I've been looking at an early French sonnet by Louise Labé. According to Wikipedia she was born "c. 1520 or 1522, Lyon - April 25, 1566, Parcieux-en-Dombes, also identified as La Belle Cordière, was a female French poet of the Renaissance, born at Lyon, the daughter of a rich ropemaker, Pierre Charly, and his second wife, Etiennette Roybet.


Both her father and her stepmother Antoinette Taillard (whom Pierre Charly married following Etiennette Roybet's death in 1523) were illiterate, but Labé received an education in Latin, Italian and music, perhaps in a convent school. At the siege of Perpignan, or in a tournament there, she is said to have dressed in male clothing and fought on horseback in the ranks of the Dauphin, afterwards Henry II. Between 1543 and 1545 she married Ennemond Perrin, a ropemaker. She became active in a circle of Lyonnais poets and humanists grouped around the figure of Maurice Scève. Her Œuvres were printed in 1555, by the renowned Lyonnais printer Jean de Tournes. In addition to her own writings, the volume contained twenty-four poems in her honor, authored by her male contemporaries and entitled Escriz de divers poetes, a la louenge de Louize Labe Lionnoize. The authors of these praise poems (not all of whom can be reliably identified) include Maurice Scève, Pontus de Tyard, Claude de Taillemont, Clement Marot, Olivier de Magny, Jean-Antoine de Baif, Mellin de Saint-Gelais, Antoine du Moulin, and Antoine Fumee. The poet Olivier de Magny, in his Odes of 1559, praised Labé (along with several other women) as his beloved; and from the nineteenth century onward, literary critics speculated that Magny was in fact Labé's lover. However, the male beloved in Labé's poetry is never identified by name, and may well represent a poetic fiction rather than a historical person. Magny's Odes also contained a poem (A Sire Aymon) that mocked and belittled Labé's husband (who had died by 1557), and by extension Labé herself. In 1564, the plague broke out in Lyon, taking the lives of some of Labé's friends. In 1565, suffering herself from bad health, she retired to the home of her friend Thomas Fortin, a banker from Florence, who witnessed her will (a document that is extant). She died in 1566, and was buried on her country property close to Parcieux-en-Dombes, outside Lyon.
From 1584, the name of Louise Labé became associated with a courtesan called "la Belle Cordière" (first described by Philibert de Vienne in 1547; the association with Labé was solidified by Antoine Du Verdier in 1585). This courtisan was a colorful and controversial figure during her own lifetime. In 1557 a popular song on the scandalous behavior of La Cordière was published in Lyon, and 1560 Jean Calvin referred to her cross-dressing and called her a plebeia meretrix or common whore. Debate on whether or not Labé was or was not a courtesan began in the sixteenth century, and has continued up to the present day. However, in recent decades, critics have focused increasing attention on her literary works.
Her Œuvres include two prose works: a feminist preface, urging women to write, that is dedicated to a young noblewoman of Lyon, Clemence de Bourges; and a dramatic allegory in prose entitled Debat de Folie et d'Amour, which draws on Erasmus' Praise of Folly. Her poetry consists of three elegies in the style of the Heroides of Ovid, and twenty-four sonnets that draw on the traditions of Neoplatonism and Petrarchism. The Debat, the most popular of her works in the sixteenth century, inspired one of the fables of Jean de la Fontaine and was translated into English by Robert Greene in 1584. The sonnets, remarkable for their frank eroticism, have been her most famous works following the early modern period, and were translated into German by Rainer Maria Rilke." (End quote)

Not mentioned there is that the Italian-born sonnet first entered France, notably through Labé's sonnets. The following is me trying my hand at a translation, then the original in the French used by Labé plus the modern French version. As you can see I did not follow the original rhyme scheme, which most people would find essential in the sonnet, but tried instead to stay as close as possible to the original and still have some rhyming lines. (I chose this particular sonnet for its classical allusion.)

Sonnet XIX

Diana, having felled many a deer,
Stood inside a wood’s clearing
And all of the nymphs gathered round her,
While I turned hither, then tither

As in a dream, when a voice resounded
Called me and said: ‘Nymph,’ surprised,
‘why not with Diana art thou?’
And, seeing me with bow nor arrow:

‘Who, my friend, while away
Took your arrow and bow?’
- I became angry with a passer-by, in a whim

I threw, in vain, all of my arrows after him,
and my bow too, of which he took hold
And returned them a-hundred fold.


Diane estant en l’espesseur d’un bois,
Apres avoir mainte beste assenee,
Prenoit le frais, de Nynfes couronnee:
J’allois resvant comme fay maintefois,

Sans y penser: quand j’ouy une vois,
Qui m’apela, disant, Nynfe estonnee,
Que ne t’es tu vers Diane tournee ?
Et me voyant sans arc & sans carquois,

Qu’as tu trouvé, o compagne, en ta voye,
Qui de ton arc & flesches ait fait proye ?
Je m’animay, respons je, à un passant,

Et lui getay en vain toutes mes flesches
Et l’arc apres: mais lui les ramassant
Et les tirant me fit cent & cent bresches.


Diane étant en l'épaisseur d'un bois,
Après avoir mainte bête assénée,
Prenait le frais, de Nymphe couronn&eacutee.
J'allais rêvant, comme fais mainte fois,

Sans y penser, quand j'ouïs une vois
Qui m'appela, disant : Nymphe étonnée,
Que ne t'es-tu vers diane tournée ?
Et, me voyant sans arc et sans carquois :

Qu'as-tu trouvé, Ô compagne en ta voie,
Qui de ton arc et flêches ait fait proie ?
- Je m'animai, réponds-je, à un passant,

Et lui jetai en vain toute mes flêches
Et l'arc aprés ; mais lui les ramassant
Et les tirant, me fit cent en cent brêches.


Oct 28, 2006
In orbit
Never mind. I found this translation (once again through Wikipedia):

Dare not to sleep!

I was awakened one morning, by the quaintest of dreams
‘twas like a voice, spoken to me
It sounded afar - like an underground stream,
I rose and said: Why do you call me?

Dare not to slumber! Dare not to sleep!
Dare not believe, it was merely a dream!
Yore I was judged.
The gallows were built in the court this evening,
They’ll come for me — 5’ in the morning

This dungeon is teeming,
And barracks stand dungeon by dungeon
we lie here, awaiting, in cold cells of stone,
We lie here, we rot, in these murky holes.

We know not ourselves, what does lie ahead
Who will be the next one they'll reach for.
We moan and we shriek: But do you take heed?
Is there none among you who’ll hearken?

No one can see us,
None know what befalls us.
Yet more:
None will believe - what the day will bring us!

And then You defy: This dare not be true!
That men can be utterly evil.
There has to be some one with merits pure
Oh, brother, you still have a great deal to learn

They said: You will give your life, if commanded
We’ve given it now, for naught it was handed
The world has forgotten, we’ve all been deceived
Dare not to sleep in this hour - this eve.

You oughtn’t go to your business hence,
Or think: What’s your loss – or what is your gain?
You oughtn’t attribute your fields and your kine,
Nor say you’ve enough - with all that is thine.

You oughn’t abide, sitting calm in your home
Saying: Dismal it is, poor they are, and alone
You cannot permit it! You dare not, at all.
Accepting that outrage on all else may fall!
I cry with the final gasps of my breath:
You dare not repose, nor stand and forget

Pardon them not - they know what they do!
They breathe on hate-glows, and evil pursue,
They fancy to slay, they revel with cries,
Their desire is to gloat, when our world is at fire!
In blood they are yearning to drown one and all!
Don’t you believe it? You’ve heard the call!

You know how infants will soldiers remain,
While dashing through streets, fields, chanting ‘bout pain
Aroused by their mothers‘ assurance of glory
They’ll shelter their land - and they’ll never worry

You know the fatality of the lies,
that glory and faith and honor abides
You discern the dauntless dreams of a child,
A saber, a banner, he’ll flaunt them so wild,

And then they’ll leave home for a rainfall of steel,
‘Till last they hang ragged on barbed wire will,
Decaying for Hitler's Aryan call,
That is what a man’s for - after all…

I couldn’t imagine – too late now it is
My sentence is just: The verdict's no miss
I believed in prosperity, dreamt about peace
In labor and fellowship; love’s fragrant kiss
Yet those who don’t die on the battlefield,
Their heads for the axeman, will certainly yield

I cry in the gloom - if only you’d knew
There is but one thing - befitting to do
Defend yourself, while your hands are still yearning,
Protect your offspring - Europe is burning.


I shook from the chill. To dress, up I rose
Without stars were shining, so far, yet so close
‘twere simply a brilliant ray in the east,
Admonishing warning from the dream that just ceased

The day that soared up from earths furthermost strand
Augmenting with blood — and with firebrand
It grew with terror - like a breath that was lost
It seemed like the starlight - was slain by the frost.

I weighed: Something is imminent - and it’s dire
Our era is over — Europe’s on fire!

Arnulf Øverland, «Den Røde Front», Tiden Norsk Forlag 1937.

(Translated by Lars-Toralf Storstrand)


Oct 28, 2006
In orbit
Next up I'll be taking a look at another modern poet, Federico Garcia Lorca. Both Øverland and Garcia Lorca take quite a different approach then the apolitical Rilke. Some additional information on the former:

Ole Peter Arnulf Øverland (April 27, 1889 - March 25, 1968) was a Norwegian author born in Kristiansund and raised in Bergen. His works include Berget det blå (1927) and Hustavler (1929).

Øverland was a communist from the early 1920s, but changed his stand in 1937 partly as a reaction to the Moscow Trials. He was an avid opponent of nazism and in 1936 he wrote the poem "Du må ikke sove" ("Dare not to sleep!") printed in the journal Samtiden. It ends with "Jeg tenkte: Nu er det noget som hender. Vår tid er forbi - Europa brenner" ("I thought: Something is imminent. Our era is over — Europe’s on fire!"). The probably most famous line of the poem is "Du må ikke tåle så inderlig vel den urett som ikke rammer deg selv!" ("You mustn't tolerate so terribly well the injustice that does not harm yourself!")

In 1933, Øverland was tried for blasphemy after giving a speech named Kristendommen - den tiende landeplage ("Christianity - the tenth plague"), but was acquitted.

During the German occupation of Norway from 1940 in World War II, he wrote a series of poems which were clandestinely distributed, leading to the arrest of him and his wife Margrete Aamot Øverland. Arnulf Øverland was held first in the prison camp of Grini before being transferred to Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Germany. The poems were later collected in Vi overlever alt ("We survive everything") (1945).

After the war, Øverland became a noted supporter for the conservative written form of Norwegian called Riksmål, he was president of Riksmålsforbundet (an organization in support of Riksmål) from 1947 to 1956, playing an important role in the Norwegian language struggle in the post-war era.

In addition, Øverland adhered to the traditionalist style of writing, criticising modernist poetry on several occasions.

(From his Wikipedia entry, as is the translation below, which is hyperlinked from there.)


Oct 28, 2006
In orbit
While I'm struggling with my next translation, I thought I'd quote some additional haikus. The haiku, somewhat like the Western epigram, evolved from a more elaborate form of poetry into its present concise form of 3 lines in the shape of 5-7-5 characters (more or less)*, mostly represented in translation by syllables, like this:

O, the nightingale!
And in the living room all
are eating dinner.

Yosa Buson (1716-1783)

O, the great Buddha:
he lends his nose for take-off
to a young swallow.

Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827)

The open window
lets in a little bird's song -
the living room: silence.

Unlike the epigram (which actually started out as an epitaph or funeral inscription), the haiku need not have a point, but may merely be an observation or represent a certain mood, evoked by but a few words. It has been an esteemed form of poetry, which could be learned by an aspiring poet from a haiku master. The following is actually a hokku, the original form of the later haiku, by Matsuo Basho (1644-1694):

furu ike ya............ (Look at) the old pond
kawazu tobikomu... frogs are leaping into it
mizu no oto........... the sound of water.

* "Characters" is actually an approximation; the proper Japanese term is moren. The transcription or transliteration of Japanese characters into syllables therefore isn't really accurate. (Compare for instance the traditional sonnet form, which consists of 2 quatrains and 2 terzains, but there's also a rhyme scheme to be followed - like abba abba cdc dcd or a variation thereof.)


Rambling and inconsistent
Mar 3, 2007
A Silver Mt. Zion
This is my favorite poem, and about the only one that doesn' suck. :p Sadly, translating this poem really ruins it since most of the wordplay is in the words. I'll still do it though. It is by Morten Nielsen.

Foraarets Horisont

Verden er vaad og lys -
Himlen er tung af væde ..
Hjertet er tungt af lykke,
lykkeligt nær ved at græde.
The Horizon of the Spring

The world is wet and bright
The sky is heavy with water
The heart is heavy with happiness
Happily almost crying


You guys see how much this poem sucks when translated? :p


Oct 28, 2006
In orbit
I don't know, but that "happily almost crying" - even if it's a literal translation - is a clever wording. Although it's certainly true a poem may loose some quality in translation, the original can still shine through, which here is definitely the case. It is quite powerful for such a short poem (I'm assuming you're quoting in full). Unfortunately I could find only this information about Morten Nielsen by googling:

Danish poet, born Jan. 3, 1922, Ålborg, Den. died Aug. 29, 1944, Copenhagen. Danish poet who became the symbol of his generation’s desire for freedom and who was killed as a result of his participation in the organized Danish resistance to the German occupation during World War II.
Nielsen was only 22 when he was killed, but the role he played in Denmark was that not of a martyr or agitator but of a poet. He had been able to express, in well-formed verse, matters that were engaging the minds of his generation and his fellow countrymen. In contrast to most of the poetry of the occupation, Nielsen’s verse is still read in Denmark. A large edition of the collected poems was published 10 years after his death.


intuitively Bayesian
Jan 19, 2006
This was one of a few poems written for me by a friend. I like it.

Run away with me
to bed
and we
can dream
outside your head.

Forget this world for a time,
and we can taste what gods are fed.
Lock myself inside your arms;
lose yourself to all my charms.

I'll show you bliss--
as close
as one another's lips--
we'll touch and kiss
a heaven from this loneliness.


Oct 28, 2006
In orbit
I've been trying to find information about Garcia Lorca, but haven't really found a good translation for his poetry. I'd appreciate any suggestions. Apart from writing poetry, he was also an active playwright, actor and artist. (I even have found three short pieces for guitar on an album.) Anyway, here's what I got by googling:

Federico García Lorca (5 June 1898 – 19 August 1936) was a Spanish poet, dramatist and theatre director. An emblematic member of the Generation of '27, he was abducted and murdered[1] by persons likely affiliated with the Nationalist cause at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.[2] A Spanish judge has opened an investigation of Garcia Lorca's death, among the many others executed and disappeared, as a crime against humanity during the Spanish Civil War and the Franco years.[3]

Born into a family of minor, but wealthy, landowners in the small village of Fuente Vaqueros, Granada, García Lorca was a precocious child, although he did not excel at school. In 1909, his father moved the family to the city of Granada, Andalusia where in time he became deeply involved in local artistic circles. His first collection of prose pieces, Impresiones y paisajes, was published in 1918 to local acclaim but little commercial success.
Associations made at Granada's Arts Club were to stand him in good stead when he moved in 1919 to the famous Residencia de estudiantes in Madrid, where he would befriend Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, among many others who were or would become influential artists in Spain. In Madrid he met Gregorio Martínez Sierra, the Director of Madrid's Teatro Eslava, at whose invitation he wrote and staged his first play, El maleficio de la mariposa, in 1919-20. A verse play dramatising the impossible love between a cockroach and a butterfly, with a supporting cast of other insects; it was laughed off stage by an unappreciative public after only four performances and influenced García Lorca's attitude to the theatre-going public for the rest of his career. He would later claim that 1927's Mariana Pineda was his first play.
Over the next few years García Lorca became increasingly involved in his art and Spain's avant-garde. He published three further collections of poems including Canciones (Songs) and Primer romancero gitano (1928, translated as Gypsy Ballads, 1953), his best known book of poetry. His second play Mariana Pineda, with stage settings by Dalí, opened to great acclaim in Barcelona in 1927.
Although not shown for the first time until the early 1930s, García Lorca wrote the play The Shoemaker's Prodigious Wife in 1926, which was a farce about fantasy, based on the relationship between a flirtatious, petulant wife and a henpecked shoemaker.
However, towards the end of the 1920s, García Lorca fell victim to increasing depression, a situation exacerbated by his anguish over his homosexuality.[4] In this he was deeply affected by the success of his Romancero gitano, which increased—through the celebrity it brought him—the painful dichotomy of his life: he was trapped between the persona of the successful author, which he was forced to maintain in public, and the tortured self, which he could only acknowledge in private.
Growing estrangement between García Lorca and his closest friends reached its climax when surrealists Dalí and Buñuel collaborated on their 1929 film Un chien andalou (An Andalusian Dog), which García Lorca interpreted, perhaps erroneously, as a vicious attack on him. The film ended García Lorca's affair with Dalí, along with Dalí meeting his future wife Gala. At the same time, his intensely passionate but fatally one-sided affair with the sculptor Emilio Aladrén was collapsing as the latter became involved with his future wife. Aware of these problems (though not perhaps of their causes), García Lorca's family arranged for him to take a lengthy visit to the United States in 1929-30.
While in America, García Lorca stayed mostly in New York City, where he studied briefly at Columbia University School of General Studies. His collection of poems Poeta en Nueva York explores his alienation and isolation through some graphically experimental poetic techniques, and the two plays Así que pasen cinco años and El público were far ahead of their time—indeed, El público was not published until the late 1970s and has never been published in its entirety (the manuscript is lost.)

Great Theater of Havana Garcia Lorca, in Havana
His return to Spain in 1930 coincided with the fall of the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera and the re-establishment of the Spanish Republic. In 1931, García Lorca was appointed as director of a university student theatre company, Teatro Universitario la Barraca (The Shack). This was funded by the Second Republic's Ministry of Education, and it was charged with touring Spain's remotest rural areas in order to introduce audiences to radically modern interpretations of classic Spanish theatre. As well as directing, García Lorca also acted. While touring with La Barraca, he wrote his best-known plays, the 'rural trilogy' of Bodas de sangre (Blood Wedding), Yerma and La casa de Bernarda Alba. He distilled his theories on artistic creation and performance in a famous lecture "Play and Theory of the Duende", first given in Buenos Aires in 1933. García Lorca argued that great art depends upon a vivid awareness of death, connection with a nation's soil, and an acknowledgment of the limitations of reason. [5] The group's subsidy was cut in half by the new government in 1934, and la Barraca's last performance was in April 1936.

Statue of García Lorca in Madrid's Plaza de Santa Ana
García Lorca left Madrid for Granada only three days before the Civil War broke out, when the Spanish political and social climate, - just after the murder of José Calvo Sotelo, - became unbearable. He was aware that he was certainly heading towards a city reputed to have the most conservative oligarchy in Andalucía. After the war broke out, García Lorca and his brother-in-law, the socialist mayor of Granada, were soon arrested. García Lorca was killed, shot by Nationalist militia on 19 August 1936. He was thrown into an unmarked grave somewhere between Víznar and Alfacar, near Granada. Significant controversy remains about the motives and details of his death. Personal non-political motives have also been suggested. García Lorca's biographer, Stainton, states that his killers had made remarks about his sexuality, suggesting that it played a role.[6] Ian Gibson states that García Lorca´s assassination was part of a campaign of mass executions directed to eliminate all the supporters of the Popular Front.[7] However, Lorca was apolitical and it is indisputable that Lorca had friends in both Republican and Nationalist camps. The Basque poet and Communist Gabriel Celaya wrote in his Memoirs that he once found Lorca in the company of Falangist José Maria Aizpurua and that Lorca told him that he dined with Falangist leader, José Antonio Primo de Riviera, in whose company Celaya had once found him previously, every Friday.[8] The dossier on the murder, compiled at Franco's request, has yet to surface.

The olive tree near Alfacar, where García Lorca was shot, as it was in 1999. Many people have left quotations from his works in its branches.[9]
Jan Morris ("Spain", p.48) describes how García Lorca "foretold his own fate in a remarkable instance of a (typically Spanish) type of mysticism: Then I realised I had been murdered They looked for me in cafes, cemeteries and churches .... but they did not find me. They never found me? No. They never found me.
The Franco regime placed a general ban on García Lorca's work, which was not rescinded until 1953 when a (censored) Obras completas (Complete works) was released. Following this, Bodas de sangre, Yerma and La casa de Bernarda Alba were successfully played in the main Spanish stages.
That Obras Completas did not include his late heavily homoerotic Sonnets of Dark Love, written in November 1935 and read only for close friends — these were lost until 1983/4 when they were finally published in draft form (no final manuscripts have ever been found.) It was only after Franco's death in 1975 that García Lorca's life and death could be openly discussed in Spain. This was due not only to political censorship but also to the reluctance of the Garcia Lorca family to allow publication of unfinished poems and plays prior to the publication of a critical edition of his works.
In 1968, Joan Baez sang translated renditions of García Lorca's poems, "Gacela Of The Dark Death" and "Casida of the Lament" on her spoken-word poetry album, Baptism.
In 1986, Leonard Cohen's English translation of the poem "Pequeño vals vienés" by García Lorca reached #1 in the Spanish single charts (as "Take This Waltz", music by Cohen). Cohen has described García Lorca as being his idol in his youth, and named his daughter Lorca Cohen for that reason.[10]
The Spanish Poet, Antonio Machado, wrote the poem "El crimen fue en Granada", in reference to García Lorca's death.
Today, García Lorca is honored by a statue prominently located in Madrid's Plaza de Santa Ana. Political philosopher David Crocker reports that "the statue, at least, is still an emblem of the contested past: each day, the Left puts a red kerchief on the neck of the statue, and someone from the Right comes later to take it off."[11]
A forward-looking Foundation, directed by niece Laura Garcia Lorca, has sponsored an array of cultural events together with the Huerta de San Vicente.
Although Lorca has received much attention in many aspects of his creative venues, one of them has been neglected in common discussions; Art. As stated by Lorca himself in many lectures and interviews and captured on page 46 of Cecilia J. Cavanaugh's book, "Lorca's Drawinigs And Poems","The poet must be a professor of the five senses in this order; Sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste." To master literature it is logical that one must have critical observation skills, however Lorca was more likely hinting at the necessity for a poet to not only lyrically express thoughts but also visually.
383 drawings have been cataloged in a book by Mario Hernandez which can be found translated under the title "Line of Light and Shadow" by Christopher Maurer. The drawings in Line of Light and Shadow are arranged chronologically (by date of creation). Lorca's ink Drawing titled ""Self Portrait in New York"captures the contrasting elements of the man made city and nature, where Lorca is found as the central figure, surrounded by three four legged animals (Dogs?) and a bucking horse.

  • Greek poet Nikos Kavvadias's poem "Federico García Lorca", in Kavvadias' Marabu collection, is dedicated to the memory of García Lorca and juxtaposes his death with the mini-holocaust of the village of Distomo, Greece, where the Nazis executed over two hundred people.
  • American poet Allen Ginsberg's hallucinatory poem 'A Supermarket in California' includes García Lorca: "and you, García Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?".
  • Hungarian poet Miklós Radnóti also wrote a poem about García Lorca in 1937 under the title 'Federico García Lorca'.[12]
  • Spanish language poet Giannina Braschi of New York wrote a treatise on Federico García Lorca entitled, "Breve tratado del poeta artista" (Cuadernos Hispanoamericanos, 1986). She later published "El imperio de los suenos," as a poetic homage to Poet in New York (first edition: Anthropos editorial del hombre, 1988; second edition Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico).
  • Poet Charles Bukowski refers to García Lorca in several of his poems including Junk, To Weep and again in the poem Style which was written for a film based on his poetry, Tales of Ordinary Madness and directed by Marco Ferreri.
  • Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas composed Homenaje a Federico García Lorca (a 3 movement work for chamber orchestra) shortly after García Lorca's death, performing the work in Spain during 1937.[13]
  • The Italian avantgarde composer Luigi Nono wrote a composition in 1953 entitled 'Epitaffio per Federico García Lorca'.
  • García Lorca is mentioned in The Clash song 'Spanish Bombs' from their London Calling album in the lines "Oh please leave the ventana open, Federico García Lorca is dead and gone".
  • The American composer George Crumb utilizes much of García Lorca's poetry in works such as his Ancient Voices of Children and his four books of Madrigals.
  • Composer Osvaldo Golijov and playwright David Henry Hwang wrote the one-act opera Ainadamar ("Fountain of Tears") about the death of García Lorca, recalled years later by his friend the actress Margarita Xirgu, who could not save him. It opened in 2003, with a revised version in 2005. A recording of the work released in 2006 on the Deutsche Grammophon label (Catalog #642902) won the 2007 Grammy awards for Best Classical Contemporary Composition and Best Opera Recording.
  • Finnish modernist composer Einojuhani Rautavaara has composed Suite de Lorca ("Lorca-sarja") for a mixed choir to the lyrics of García Lorca's poems Canción de jinete, El grito, La luna asoma and Malagueña (1972).
  • Gary Mex Glazner wrote a poem dedicated to García Lorca entitled 'Lorca'.
  • Seamus Heaney also referred to García Lorca in Summer 1969 (poem), line 17.
  • The Pogues dramatically retell the story of his murder in the song 'Lorca's Novena' on their Hell's Ditch album.
  • Reginald Smith Brindle: El Polifemo de Oro quattro frammenti per chitarra
  • Composer Dmitri Shostakovich wrote the first two movements of his 14th Symphony based around Garcia Lorca poems.
  • The French composer Maurice Ohana set what some regard as Lorca's finest poem - Lament for the death of a Bullfighter (Llanto por Ignacio Sanchez Mejias) - to music in a stark, dramatic setting recorded by the famous conductor Atualfo Argenta in the 1950s

[A Manuel de Falla]

Lira cordial de plata refulgente
de duro acento y nervio desatado,
voces y frondas de una España ardiente
con tus manos de amor has dibujado.
En nuestra propia sangre está la fuente,
que tu razón y sueños ha brotado.
Algebra limpia de serena frente.
Disciplina y pasión de lo soñado.
Ocho provincias de la Andalucía,
olivo al aire y a la mar los remos,
cantan, Manuel de Falla, tu alegría.
Con el laurel y flores que ponemos,
amigos de tu casa en este día,
pura amistad sencilla te ofrecemos.

Epitafio a Isaac Albeniz

Esta piedra que vemos levantada
sobre hierbas de muerte y barro oscuro
guarda lira de sombra, sol maduro,
urna de canto sola y derramada.
Desde la sal de Cádiz a Granada,
que erige en agua su perpetuo muro,
en caballo andaluz de acento duro
tu sombra gime por la luz dorada.
¡Oh dulce muerto de pequeña mano!
¡Oh música y bondad entretejida!
¡Oh pupila de azor, corazón sano!
Duerme cielo sin fin, nieve tendida.
Sueña invierno de lumbre, gris verano.
¡Duerme en olvido de tu vieja vida!
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