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2 April 1940: Lorca’s Poet in New York is first published

Lorca, right, with friends in New York
Lorca, right, with friends in New York / SUR
  • The Andalusian writer had written the collection of poems during his stay in the US ten years previously

On 2 April 1940, A Poet in New York by Andalusian poet Federico García Lorca, was first published. The work, written during Lorca’s time in New York between 1929 and 1930, was not published in Spain at this time due to the Franco regime’s censorship.

Lorca arrived in New York in 1929 to study English for the summer at Columbia University. A year earlier, he had won critical acclaim for his book of poetry, Gypsy Ballads, in which he conveyed the rich culture of Andalucía. However, his relationship with two of his long-term artistic companions, Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel, had recently soured after the pair made a surrealist film, An Andalusian Dog. Lorca saw this as an attack on himself, his background and on Andalucía as a whole.

Lorca, pictured on the sundial at Columbia University, New York.

Lorca, pictured on the sundial at Columbia University, New York.

Hoping to use his time in New York to start again, Lorca spent ten months in the United States. However, for someone raised in rural Granada province, the hustle and bustle of modernity in New York was overwhelming and he used poetry as a means of conveying his alienation.

During his stay, in October 1929, he witnessed the Wall Street Crash. His poem Dance of Death gives his first-hand account of its chaotic aftermath, becoming one of many in the collection lamenting the excesses of capitalism. Other themes explored include racism and environmental degradation.

In 1930, Lorca returned to Spain and enjoyed great success as a playwright. His works such as The House of Bernarda Alba displayed the good and the bad of rural Andalusian life. When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, Lorca became a target for right-wing forces due to his socialist views and homosexuality. He went into hiding in Granada but was arrested by nationalists on 16 August. Three days later, somewhere near the town of Alfacar, he was executed by firing squad.

2 April 1940: Lorca’s Poet in New York is first published

Just a month before his death, Lorca had left the manuscript for Poet in New York with his editor José Bergamín in Madrid. Bergamín managed to flee Spain, taking the manuscript with him. It was eventually published in Mexico and the United States on 2 April 1940. American poet Rolfe Humphries translated the work into English.

Lorca’s work remained highly censored throughout the Franco regime, which is believed to have been complicit in his death. Although the restoration of democracy has renewed Lorca’s popularity in Spain, the exact whereabouts of his remains are still unknown.