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“I still consider myself a true novice, and I’m still learning my profession … One has to ascend one step at a time … [One shouldn’t] demand of my nature, my spiritual and intellectual development, something that no author can give until much later … My work has just begun.”

CASIDAS (Translation by A. S. Kline)


The rose was
not looking for the morning:
on its branch, almost immortal,
it looked for something other.

The rose was
not looking for wisdom, or for shadow:
the edge of flesh and dreaming,
it looked for something other.

The rose was
not looking for the rose, was
unmoving in the heavens:
it looked for something other.

Federico Garcia Lorca was one of the most important Spanish poets of the twentieth century. Born in 1898 in Fuente Vaqueros, was fortunate in his early years to be influenced by his mother, a gifted pianist from whom he absorbed the rhythm of music and words. As a teen, he wrote and performed readings of his poetry at local cafes.

He studied law and philosophy at the University of Granada, fields he abandoned as he explored his love of the theater, art and literature. In 1918, he published his first collection of prose poems that were inspired by a trip to Castile.

In 1919, he left the Granada region and moved to Madrid where he left the university and spent the next 15 years devoted to his art, concentrating on organizing theater performances, poetry readings and researching and collecting folksongs. In 1920, he wrote a scandalous play, El Maleficio de la mariposa along with Libro de poemas, a compilation of poetry rooted in Spanish folklore. His work was rich in Flamenco and Gypsy culture themes.

During this part of his life, Lorca was introduced to surrealism after becoming part of a group of artists known as Generación del 27, which included Salvador Dalí, for whom Lorca felt a passionate bond, and Luis Buñuel.

In 1928, Lorca achieved fame with his book of verse, Romancero Gitano, “The Gypsy Ballads”). Romancero Gitano was reprinted seven times during Lorca’s lifetime and earned him the unofficial title of the “Gypsy poet.” Lorca disliked this label and worked to dispel what he considered a pall over his work.

Lorca moved to New York in 1929, discovered African-American spirituals in Harlem and immersed himself into the culture. It reminded him of the “deep songs” that he loved in his homeland.


Dawn in New York has
four columns of mire
and a hurricane of black pigeons
splashing in the putrid waters.

Dawn in New York groans
on enormous fire escapes
searching between the angles
for spikenards of drafted anguish.

Dawn arrives and no one receives it in his mouth
because morning and hope are impossible there:
sometimes the furious swarming coins
penetrate like drills and devour abandoned children.

Those who go out early know in their bones
there will be no paradise or loves that bloom and die:
they know they will be mired in numbers and laws,
in mindless games, in fruitless labors.

The light is buried under chains and noises
in the impudent challenge of rootless science.
And crowds stagger sleeplessly through the boroughs
as if they had just escaped a shipwreck of blood.

Lorca returned to Spain in 1930 to aid in the newly established “La Barracda” traveling theater company. In 1936, he was arrested by Franquist soldiers at the beginning of the Civil War. He was jailed for a few days, then taken to visit is brother-in-law, the former Socialist mayor of Granada, although the poet did not know that his brother-in-law had been murdered and his body dragged through the streets several days before. When the soldiers arrived at the cemetary instead of his brother-in-law’s home, Garcia Lorca was forced from the car, bludgeoned with rifles and his body riddled with bullets. His books were publicly burned and banned from Franco’s Spain and citizens were forbidden to utter his name, ironic commands considering that Lorca became a martyr for his country and school children still sing his ballads today.

No one knows for certain where Lorca’s remains were buried. Some accounts place his body in an unmarked grave along with a schoolmaster and two bullfighters but although such graves have been uncovered, his remains have not been located.

Inward Ballad
To Gabriel

The heart
I had when in school,
where my first primer
was painted,
is it in you,
black night?

(Cold, cold,
like the water
in the river.)

My first line of verse,
the girl with braids
who always looked straight ahead,
are they in you,
black night?

(Cold, cold,
like the water
in the river.)

But my heart,
gnawed by serpents,
the heart that once hung
from the Tree of Knowledge,
is it in you,
black night?

I’m Beth Winter and I hope you enjoyed this poet spotlight of Federico Garcia Lorca. Most of his poetry has been translated from Spanish to English to allow for a wider audience. The three poems included here are only a small sampling of the gifts that Lorca left for us to experience.

Fundación Federico García Lorca 
Image – Federico Garcia Lorca watercolor by Ken Meyer Jr. 
Federico Garcia Lorca (collected poems)
The Poetry Foundation
Repertorio Federico Garcia Lorca 
Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936)