García Lorca’s Is Published Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

In Poet in New York, Federico García Lorca described his feelings of attraction to and repulsion by white urban American civilization from the perspective of an Old World outsider.

Summary of Event

Federico García Lorca is widely regarded as Spain’s most distinguished twentieth century writer of poetry and drama. García Lorca was a major participant in the flowering of Spanish literature that occurred in the years between World War I (1914-1918) and the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), an era of richness and diversity that has been compared to the sixteenth and seventeenth century Spanish Golden Age. [kw]García Lorca’s Poet in New York Is Published (1940)[García Lorcas Poet in New York Is Published (1940)] [kw]Poet in New York Is Published, García Lorca’s (1940) [kw]Published, García Lorca’s Poet in New York Is (1940) Poet in New York (García Lorca) Poetry;Poet in New York (García Lorca) [g]Latin America;1940: García Lorca’s Poet in New York Is Published[10120] [g]Mexico;1940: García Lorca’s Poet in New York Is Published[10120] [c]Literature;1940: García Lorca’s Poet in New York Is Published[10120] García Lorca, Federico Dalí, Salvador Buñuel, Luis Whitman, Walt Calderón de la Barca, Pedro

Having already published numerous volumes of poetry, in 1929 García Lorca found himself at an artistic and personal impasse. Early that year, García Lorca had received inquiries regarding the possibility of giving a series of lectures in the United States, and at the urging of his family he embarked on his first trip outside Spain in the summer of 1929. The trip led him, via France and England, to Columbia University in New York City. Although they stimulated his literary output, the new and completely different surroundings also proved to be overwhelming and shocking.

Written in 1929 and 1930 while the poet was living in New York City and published after his death, Poeta in Nueva York (1940; Poet in New York) belongs to García Lorca’s mature period of artistic evolution. It is, in fact, part of a new stage in his development as a poet, both stylistically and thematically. In this volume of poetry, a new vision of modern civilization is expressed, yet it is a vision that originates from some of the same emotional responses to the world that gave rise to his earlier volumes: Libro de poemas (1921; book of poems), Libro de poemas (García Lorca) Poema del cante jondo (1931; Poem of the Deep Song, 1987), Poem of the Deep Song (García Lorca) and Romancero gitano (1928; The Gypsy Ballads of García Lorca, 1951, 1953). Gypsy Ballads of García Lorca, The (García Lorca) The themes underlying the poems of these early volumes—desire for the unattainable, nostalgia for a lost Eden, and the sterility of self-consciousness—reappear in Poet in New York with larger social implications. García Lorca’s volume also explores the themes of materialism, dehumanization, violence, and racism.

The poet-persona (although the book contains autobiographical elements, the speaker in each of the poems in the volume cannot be identified with the poet) of Poet in New York becomes outraged against the empire of office buildings, the river drunk on oil, and the suits of clothing empty of humanity—all of which are the tangible results of humankind’s intellectual endeavors. In the midst of this teeming humanity, the speaker of the poems desires a moment of peace and fulfillment (which is unattainable); his nostalgia for childhood grows stronger as Eden grows more inaccessible.

Near the beginning of the volume, García Lorca’s persona identifies with a tree that cannot bear fruit because of its self-consciousness. By the end of the volume, however, the speaker identifies with nature and with the blood and human vitality of natural violence. He sides with the blacks of Harlem, and he experiences all the pain of consciousness. Rendered passive by the impact of this harsh world on his suffering sensibility, he can only name the objects of his nightmare vision. In his outrage, however, when he has sufficient strength to react against this world, he calls for a revolution that will flood the streets with blood and destroy the bloodless suits of Wall Street.

Thus, although some thematic similarities to his earlier poetry exist in Poet in New York, the manner in which García Lorca confronts the New World (New York City) radically differs from his manner of expression prior to his departure from Spain (the Old World). García Lorca moves from a state of participation in nature and in his community, manifested in the rhythmic, frequently dramatic poetry of imagery drawn from the natural world of southern Spain, to a state of extreme estrangement and dislocation from his familiar universe. This alienation manifests itself in the dissonant, subjective, and violent imagery drawn from the technological world of New York City. Poet in New York, then, reflects García Lorca’s experience of depression and alienation in a foreign reality he perceives to be hostile, yet it is also an account of his psychological journey from alienation and disorientation to reintegration into the natural world.

Poet in New York marks the first appearance in García Lorca’s work of poems that seriously address the topic of homosexuality—notably in “Tu infancia en Menton” (your childhood in Menton) and “Oda a Walt Whitman” (ode to Walt Whitman). Under the aegis of the noble American poet Walt Whitman, García Lorca ventures to introduce and defend homosexual love. The poem is an ode both to Whitman and to the agonized individuals whose homosexuality brings them only the pain of frustrated love. They are alienated human beings for whom there is no place in the world and who know the anguish of unfulfilled desire.

Transcending the poet’s private vision of modern civilization, Poet in New York also reflects a metaphysical dimension; modern man recognizes the spiritual wasteland in which he lives. He discovers that he is alone, empty, without roots, and without belief in a divine being. Locked in a prison of subjectivity, he no longer belongs to the world or the cosmos. Now he is conscious, and his vision separates him from the world and his gods; he is fallen. The myth of the Fall expresses both the state of man’s alienation from God and nature, resulting from consciousness, and the state of modern civilization’s alienation from any unifying reality that might have held society together as a community.


In the 1920’s, Surrealism Surrealism exploded onto the artistic horizon with the publication of French poet André Breton’s Breton, André Manifeste du surréalisme (Manifesto of Surrealism, 1969) Manifesto of Surrealism (Breton) in 1924 and the publication of the journal La Révolution surréaliste (the Surrealist revolution). Breton described Surrealism as the poet’s surrendering to a state of pure psychic automatism, a state in which the poet could express—by means of the written word—the actual functioning of thought. Poetry, then, was dictated by thought, without any control exercised by reason. Consequently, it was exempt from any aesthetic or moral concerns. García Lorca himself had participated actively in the propagation of the ideas of Surrealism in 1928 by founding and editing Gallo, an avant-garde magazine that acknowledged the influence of many prominent Surrealist poets, painters, and musicians of the day.

Because García Lorca’s New York poetry was indeed a startling departure from his earlier poetry in its tone of alienation and violent imagery, and because of its surface resemblance to some French Surrealist poetry written by Breton and Paul Éluard, Poet in New York was generally labeled as Surrealist at the time of its publication. Although Poet in New York does reflect the influence of Surrealism in both its use of language and its imagery, however, there is a basic difference between Breton’s Surrealist poetry and García Lorca’s symbolic poetry. García Lorca’s New York poetry functions symbolically and metaphorically. The irrational, illogical, surrealistic (but not Surrealist) images, considered together, compose an organic whole expressive of a feeling or idea in the poet’s mind; these images come into being by their relation to the subject rather than by their relation to each other. In other words, the notion of automatism or chance, which is at the root of Surrealist creation, is not an active force in García Lorca’s New York poetry.

The critical reception of Poet in New York has been extremely varied. When the poems started to appear, many Spanish critics, certain that García Lorca was a popular poet, tended to regard the poetry from the New York period as a temporary aberration on his part. It was considered a strange, impenetrable work, apparently Surrealist in origin. To many, the New York poems represented a rejection of the traditional style of his earlier poetry and an embarkation on a new experiment in poetic creation. García Lorca’s “experiment” was regarded by many as a failure: In their opinion the poetry somehow did not measure up to the greatness of his earlier work.

The issue of García Lorca’s influence is complex. In Spain, García Lorca’s New York poetry did have an effect on his younger contemporaries, but this influence is difficult to isolate from the influence García Lorca himself was receiving. García Lorca certainly influenced the poet Luis Cernuda, Cernuda, Luis a poet of similar but more refined temperament; Cernuda followed García Lorca in the note of rebellion that finally broke out openly in the former’s poetry. Other prominent Spanish poets never accepted García Lorca’s Surrealist manner. They were unable to accept the iconoclastic aspects of his work—both in form and content—specifically those aspects that clashed with Spanish tradition. After the Spanish Civil War ended in 1939, Spanish poets returned to formalism and tranquillity, to simple human expression, and even to religion under the varied influence of many poets, including the modern poet Antonio Machado. Aside from evoking an appreciation of its rebelliousness and prohibited themes, García Lorca’s New York poetry had little direct impact on later Spanish poets.

In Latin America, however, the situation proved different. Among the many Latin American poets influenced by García Lorca were Carlos Correa in Chile, Miguel Otero Silva in Venezuela, Jorge Zalamea in Colombia, Claudia Lars in Central America, and Manuel José Lira in Mexico. To them, García Lorca was a spokesman not only for his native Spain but also for the twentieth century Western world. García Lorca’s work presented a new spiritual insight. Tormented and mutilated, but still sensually realistic, the New York poems carried a peculiarly important message to the modern age. They were not viewed as the fabrications of a mind that had lost touch with reality, as the outpourings of a Surrealist creating a gruesome antihuman nightmare world. Although they were regarded as García Lorca’s most difficult poems—musically discordant, disrupted in meter, poured into arbitrary autonomous form, cascading with the fragments of exploded metaphor—their secret was that a new world of imagery had been created to embody the intense spiritual effort that informs them. The intricate imagistic and metaphoric language of Poet in New York proceeds from a vision of the world that, finding no expressive instrument in the traditions of any literary medium, demanded of the poet a new imaginative invention.

Poet in New York, an intensely personal yet strikingly universal work, is an example of modern alienation from self, family, society, and religion. The work has been regarded as an apocalyptic vision of the United States. On the social level, García Lorca denounces the poverty and exploitation he sees around him, criticizes Wall Street (which was in the midst of the 1929 stock market crash) and its materialism and capitalism, hurls invectives against the pope and much of organized religion, and even looks forward to the day when a cataclysmic upheaval is envisioned as overtaking the city. Poet in New York (García Lorca) Poetry;Poet in New York (García Lorca)

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Allen, Rupert C. The Symbolic World of Federico García Lorca. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1972. In this original study of García Lorca’s poetic and dramatic use of symbolism, the author discusses Poet in New York as a volcanic eruption of symbols of personal as well as social destruction, disease, and disintegration. Contains bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Barea, Arturo. Lorca: The Poet and His People. Translated by Ilsa Barea. London: Faber & Faber, 1954. Although somewhat dated, Barea’s study argues that, above all, García Lorca’s work is “popular” in the sense that it touched a generation, speaking to the emotional and revolutionary forces that were beginning to take shape. In addition, the author discusses the themes of sex and death in García Lorca’s poetry and drama. Includes appendix of Spanish quotations from García Lorca’s works.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Cobb, Carl W. Federico García Lorca. New York: Twayne, 1967. The aim of this perceptive, well-written work is to give a general overview of some of García Lorca’s representative works. Cobb devotes an entire chapter to Poet in New York and discusses the prophetically tragic outlook that infuses García Lorca’s work with the turbulence, rebellion, and frustration of spirit of the modern age. Chronology, bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Craige, Betty Jean. Lorca’s “Poet in New York”: The Fall into Consciousness. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1977. This brief scholarly study focuses on the Fall as the thematic center of Poet in New York. The nostalgia for a lost Eden and the sterility of self-consciousness, according to Craige, are the driving forces of the volume. Discusses the work in the context of García Lorca’s earlier poetry. Contains a brief bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Dalí, Salvador, et al. Sebastian’s Arrows: Letters and Mementos of Salvador Dalí and Federico García Lorca. Translated by Christopher Maurer. Chicago: Swan Isle Press, 2005. A careful and fascinating study of the friendship between these two men. Includes an excellent introduction by Maurer, a Spanish professor at Boston University.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gibson, Ian. Federico García Lorca: A Life. New York: Pantheon Books, 1997. An essential work by a noted scholar. Thoroughly analyzes García Lorca’s literary and political activity.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Londre, Felicia Hardison. Federico García Lorca. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1984. This perceptive work discusses the personal and artistic influences in García Lorca’s life, his major plays, the musicality of his early poetry, and the folk ballads, paintings, and stories. It also analyzes the new directions in his more mature poetry. Useful bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Maurer, Christopher. Introduction to Poet in New York. Translated by Greg Simon and Steven F. White. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1988. In this brief but excellent essay, Maurer points out the many reasons why he considers Poet in New York to have been a turning point in the poet’s work. Also discusses the volume in the context of the poet’s life.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Predmore, Richard L. Lorca’s New York Poetry: Social Injustice, Dark Love, Lost Faith. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1980. The aim of this original study is to explore and elucidate the poetic symbolism and thematic structure of García Lorca’s New York poetry. Predmore measures the poetic language of the work in the light of the ambiguous symbolism already developed in earlier works. Contains a brief bibliography.

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