The Federico García Lorca Foundation announced today the largest-ever festival in North America celebrating the work of Federico García Lorca, who is often described as the most influential Spanish poet and playwright of the last century. "Lorca in New York: A Celebration" (April 5- July 21) features more than two dozen events at venues throughout Manhattan, many of which will mine an aspect of Lorca's classic work, Poet in New York. Anchored by a world-premiere exhibition at The New York Public Library (NYPL) and timed to the release of Farrar, Straus and Giroux's new, enhanced edition of Poet in New York, the festival marks the first time in more than 25 years that the city will pay tribute to Lorca on a grand scale.
Born in an Andalusian village in 1898 and murdered by a pro-Franco firing squad in 1936, Lorca managed in his short life to produce some of his era's most admired, and enduring, poems and plays. "Lorca in New York" focuses on a brief but prolific period of the writer's life in 1929-30. Recently estranged from his close friend Salvador Dali, haunted by the break-up of an important love affair, and struggling to live both as a public figure and a homosexual, Lorca came to New York to heal, and to write. He enrolled at Columbia University and set out to explore New York, from Harlem ("the most important black city in the world") to Wall Street, where he would witness the 1929 crash.
So radical was his "lyrical reaction" to the city that Lorca delayed publication of Poet in New York, preferring to perform it aloud with an interpretive lecture so he could "read the book and analyze it at the same time." In July 1936, after years of mulling over the title, contents, and organization of the book, Lorca took the manuscript to the Madrid office of a famous small press. The publisher was out, so Lorca left a note saying that he would be "back tomorrow." Days later, the Spanish Civil War broke out. Within a month, Lorca-a liberal who had excoriated the Spanish bourgeoisie and was openly gay-was arrested and executed by order of one of Franco's generals.
When finally published in 1940, Poet would change the direction of poetry in both Spain and the Americas for generations to come. Meanwhile, in Franco's Spain, Lorca's works would be banned for another 15 years.