March 8, 2013

Lorca’s “Poet in New York”: an exhibition, a festival, an all-out bonanza


“I love New York! (Also, waistcoats.)”

For all those who love Lorca’s paen to the city, Poet In New York, the New York Public Library will soon be hosting an exhibition, “Back Tomorrow: Federico García Lorca / Poet in New York” (open from April 5-July 21) focused on the book’s genesis and Lorca’s time in the city. The exhibit will bring together early drafts of the poetic sequences that make up most of the book, as well as the poet’s letters to his family and drawings.  Other objects on display will be Lorca’s passport, library card, and guitar, and books and manuscripts from Walt Whitman, T.S. Eliot, and Hart Crane. This second group of materials should be particularly interesting to have side by side with the emerging Poet In New York because, when Lorca was attending Columbia University in the summer of 1929, a number of friends of his were at work on Spanish translations of “Song of Myself” and “The Waste Land,” and Lorca’s experience of those translations strongly influenced the development of his own poetry.

The exhibition will be accompanied by more than two dozen readings, lectures, panels, movie screenings, theatrical performances, concerts, festivals, and all manner of interpretations and celebrations. In other words, wherever you go in the city between the beginning of April and the end of July, you’re likely to bump into something Lorca and Poeta en Nueva York-ish. Perhaps especially interesting are the lecture “Federico García Lorca Occupies Wall Street: Poet In New York and Global Crisis” (July 10, NYPL), to be given by Melcion Mateu, in which Mateu will speak about Poet in New York as “a book that was written in, and perhaps meant to be read in an era of global turmoil.” And, for those who like to tramp the streets in person, and not just virtually, the Cervantes Institute will be offering a free walking tour of Lorca’s New York on June 5th, his 115th birthday, that will encompass Columbia, the Hispanic Society of America, Small’s Paradise (one of Harlem’s most famous clubs at the time, known for its dancing waiters and bootleg hooch) and other sites that inspired the poet. This tour is an annual affair, and photos of last year’s outing can be seen here. For more information about the NYPL exhibition and other events, go to



Sal Robinson is an editor at Melville House. She's also the co-founder of the Bridge Series, a reading series focused on translation.