Lorca and the Poetry of Spain
Graham Fawcett Talk
Thursday 20 February 6 for 6.30pm
Tickets: £10 / £25 with buffet supper afterwards. Please phone 01308 459511 to book.
Federico Garcia Lorca (1898 – 1936) was a Spanish poet, dramatist and theatre director executed in the Spanish Civil War.
When Spain’s poets first began to sing, it was the Islamic and Judaic worlds which inspired them. Then came the Spanish troubadours and Spain’s epic masterpiece, The Poem of El Cid about the nation’s legendary leader. “When the imaginary saint or lover or hero moves us most deeply”, wrote W B Yeats, “it is the moment when he awakens within us for an instant our own heroism, our own sanctity, our own desire”. So El Cid captured Spanish hearts and minds as Don Quixote would later do.
In Lorca and the Poetry of Spain, Graham Fawcett will transform Federico Garcia Lorca into a time-travelling guide through a thousand years of Spanish poetry in order to recreate the atmosphere in which he learned from a vast range of poetic music on his own path to greatness.
That path led him into close and transforming experiences of the wonderful love poets who wrote in Arabic and Hebrew nearly a thousand years before him; the internationally acclaimed El Cid national epic made famous by the cinema; medieval love poets, the mastery of Luis de Gongora, the so-called poetic Generations of 1898 and 1927, Granada, and the folk poets of his native Andalusia, to whose gipsy music traditions he tuned his young poetic voice. “I try to harmonize the gipsy mythology with what is purely ordinary these days”, he said. Lorca’s masterpiece is his Romancero gitano, the Gipsy Ballad-book.
Lorca was a dramatist whose three plays have all reached the cinema; a musician and composer who played piano and guitar and was an aficionado of flamenco. Manuel De Falla encouraged him to collect traditional folk songs and set them to music, and he collaborated with de Falla on the 1922 flamenco festival known as the Festa del Cante Jondo or festival of deep song. And it was from cante jondo that Lorca created one of the most haunting features of his style: repeated phrases as in ballad, incantation and lament. “Deep song”, he wrote, “is a very rare specimen of primitive song, the oldest in all Europe, and its notes carry the naked, spine-tingling emotion of the first Oriental races”.
Lorca recognised the incomprehensibility of inspiration and what becomes of it. Of one of his greatest poems, ‘Somnambular Ballad’, he wrote: “nobody knows what is happening, not even I, because the mystery of poetry is also a mystery for the poet who communicates it, but which he is so often not aware of”.
Graham Fawcett uses some of Lorca’s finest poems to explore his theory of duende. Untranslateable as one word, Lorca took ten pages to describe it dozens of ways in a famous lecture he gave in Havana and Buenos Aires. “I have heard an old master-guitarist say, ‘the duende isn’t in your throat, the duende wells up from the souls of your feet’”, he said. Duende was closely linked, he explained, to “the hidden spirit of suffering Spain”; “a mysterious power which everyone feels and which no philosopher can explain” and which therefore “is, in short, the spirit of the earth”.
Night of Sleepless Love
The night above. We two. Full moon.
I started to weep, you laughed.
Your scorn was a god, my laments
moments and doves in a chain.
The night below. We two. Crystal of pain.
You wept over great distances.
My ache was a clutch of agonies
over your sickly heart of sand.
Dawn married us on the bed,
our mouths to the frozen spout
of unstaunched blood.
The sun came through the shuttered balcony
and the coral of life opened its branches
over my shrouded heart.
― Federico García Lorca
Graham Fawcett is a writer, broadcaster, translator and educator. He now devotes his time to giving courses, seminars, tutorials, lectures, poetry lunches, and other one-day events on reading and writing poetry. He has been a tutor for The Poetry School since 1997, devising and teaching new courses on poetry past and present from around the world. He has written and presented radio programmes about literature and music on BBC Radio 3 for many years. His translation of Dante’s La Vita Nuova was used as the basis for a Radio 3 drama.
Future dates for Graham Fawcett’s talks at Sladers Yard:
Seamus Heaney: Thursday 10 April
Robert Frost: Thursday 12 June