Sunday, June 9, 2013

"Back tomorrow": a new translation of a 1933 interview with Frederico Garcia Lorca

As part of the Lorca in New York festival, writers including Paul Auster, Wayne Koestenbaum, Aracelis Girmay, John Giorno, Mónica de la Torre, and Frederic Tuten will revisit Lorca’s poem Poet in New York on Monday, June 10, at The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church.
Mónica de la Torre, Senior Editor at BOMB magazine, writes: "In the summer of 1936, Lorca left the recently completed manuscript on the desk of his publisher José Bergamín with the note Back tomorrow. Such meeting never took place, for Lorca was murdered a few weeks later. Poet in New York was published posthumously in 1940.
In the interview translated below, which first appeared in the Spanish newspaper ABC on March 5, 1933, Lorca shares his vivid impressions of New York City, blending them with fragments of his poems recited from memory."
The complete 1933 interview with Luis Méndez Domínguez is available online at the BOMB magazine website. An excerpt:
 Suitcases: like García Sanchiz, like Paul Morand, like Albert Londres, Federico García Lorca, the great Spanish poet, the bard of Andalucía, is a lover of the suitcase. With one difference. Being international like them, a traveler in all senses of the word, Lorca hates the Hartmann Standard and seeks out his unlabeled Spanish suitcase from the other side of the world. 
And Lorca will be happy, face-to-face with Spanish folklore. His extraordinary poet’s sensibility will softly, precisely touch on the fundaments of our traditions, melting itself into Spain’s own sensibility. Lorca, before beginning our chat about New York, said to me: 
Lorca: The influence of the United States on the world can be summed up in skyscrapers, in jazz, and in cocktails. That’s all. Nothing more than that. And as for cocktails, over in Cuba, in our America, they do things a lot better than the Yanks. Yes, in Cuba, precisely where the North American spirit believes itself to be most powerful. 
Lorca is right. 
New York: Federico has been leaving his poem of New York on every corner of the peninsula. Very recently, Madrid, Valladolid, and San Sebastian have all trembled before the word of Lorca—the written word—which has turned the outline of New York’s skyscrapers into the fine string of a well-played violin. 

I asked him, before his next book, to explain the plan of the work to me and to readers of Blanco y Negro. And the poet began by saying to me: 
Lorca: I didn’t want to describe New York from the outside, just as I wouldn’t with Moscow. These are two cities about which a river of descriptive books is currently being made to flow. My observations, then, have to be lyrical. Superhuman architecture and furious pace, geometry and anxiety. But there is no happiness, despite the pace. Man and machine live the slavery of the moment. The rooftops rise to the sky without seeking glory or to become clouds. Nothing more poetic and terrible than the fight of skyscrapers against the sky that covers them. 
Lorca: Snow, rain, and fog—continues the poet—accent, dampen, cover the immense towers; but these, blind to all games, express their cold intention, the enemy of mystery, and cut the rain’s hair, or make their three thousand swords visible through the gentle swan of mist. . . . 

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