SO, YOU MIGHT be asking, Why García Lorca? In April of 2015, I read an article a friend had posted online from The Guardian detailing a revelation (based on newly uncovered documents) that Lorca had been killed in 1936 on police orders. He was executed for his political beliefs and his “homosexual and abnormal practices.” It was an open secret that he was killed by the right-wing Franco regime, but now, finally, proof. His body has still not been found. When I read that article, I felt a bolt of pain. As if I were reading new details about the tragic death of a dear friend. I thought of him in the moment of his death—in a time and place when it was a risk to be a poet. A beautiful and necessary risk. I wondered if Lorca meant as much to my writer friends and their communities. My friend had quoted a beautiful poem along with her posting of the article, as well as a few untranslated lines from Lorca’s “Sleepwalking Ballad”—“Verde que te quiero verde”—and I knew that he did mean something to many of us. I wanted to talk and think about Lorca with fellow poets. I started to imagine what they might cook up in response to their relationship with his poetry.
I fell in love with the poetry of García Lorca about ten years before the publication of the article in The Guardian. I was living on Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC, teaching high school English during the day and college composition classes at night. I often wandered around the city with a good friend, walking home late at night after the bars closed, or spending the weekend days roaming the mercurial neighborhoods of the District, taking photos, jotting down lines, and trying to understand the extreme mix of poverty and wealth and power that the city held. One block desolation, one block opulence. The juxtaposition, and perhaps just my life there at the time, made the place seem lonely and, at times, surreal. I stumbled upon Lorca’s Poet in New York somewhere along the way, and I felt understood—or at least that there was finally something for me to understand and to hold onto about my experience. Who else had walked “With all the bone-tired, deaf-and-dumb things / and a butterfly drowned in the inkwell”? And who else knew for sure that we would have to journey through “open country, where the tame cobras hiss in a daze, / landscapes full of graves that yield the freshest apples, / so that uncontrollable light will arrive / to frighten the rich behind their magnifying glasses—.” A few years later, when my friend and fellow drinking buddy and city wanderer died, I turned back to Lorca, knowing that “the dead are more powerful and can devour pieces of the sky.” And of course, they are. And of course, they do.
I asked these poets, “How does Lorca’s voice speak to you?” And they answered. Included in this anthology are poems from all kinds of poets. The beautiful thread is that they all love Lorca and connect with his work passionately. I could not believe how many poets answered this call with an immediate “Yes.” It is because of the power this poet has over space and time. It is because his poetry never sleeps.
Life is no dream. Watch out! Watch out! Watch out!
No es sueño la vida. ¡Alerta! ¡Alerta! ¡Alerta!