May 07, 2015

#04-015: Garcia Lorca, Poet of the People

informal black-and-white photo of a happy-looking, clean-shaven man in coveralls
Garcia Lorca in 1932

Note: The tragically brief life of Federico García Lorca--he died at 38--was nonetheless one filled with amazing work.

Get Ready: What had you accomplished (or what do you hope to accomplish) before the age of 40?

Spanish poet and dramatist Federico García Lorca (1898-1936) was born to a wealthy landowning Spanish family. But after travels through rural Spain and a stay in New York City, USA, he became a champion of the poor, especially through theater. During Spain's troubled 1930s, he toured with a troupe that performed for the people of the countryside, writing "The theatre is a school of weeping and of laughter, a free forum..." 

He was born in the country, on his father's farm, and didn't move into the nearby city of Granada until he was 11 years old. Garcia Lorca's mother was a musician, and for many years he trained as a classical pianist. In 1916, after his piano teacher died, he turned to creating written works, and his first works were inspired by his music training. These two early influences--the natural environment of the countryside, and the world of music--would remain important influences throughout his short life.

Moving to Madrid shortly after age 20, Garcia Lorca enrolled at the Residencia de Estudiantes ("Student Residence"), a progressive college where he became friends with the future filmmaker Luis Bunuel and artist Salvador Dali, among others. Though he studied law and philosophy at the Residencia, he was more interested in writing. Here he composed his first play, the performance of which was a complete failure.

In time García Lorca would write around 15 plays. Three of these, called the Rural Trilogy, are among the best known. Titled Blood Wedding, Yerma (or "Barren," about a woman who can not have children), and The House of Bernarda Alba, they have been called "folk tragedies," exploring the effects of dark forces on everyday people.

He is best known today for his poetry. His earlier works are rooted in the countryside of Andalusia, and take on mythic themes. His later poems are more surrealistic.

Federico García Lorca was taken from his home by Nationalist forces at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. Some say he was executed for his politics; others claim there were personal reasons. His body has never been located.


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. champion
  2. dramatist
  3. enrolled at
  4. everyday
  5. executed
  6. landowning
  7. mythic
  8. progressive
  9. surrealistic
  10. trilogy

  1. signed up for, as for a school
  2. modern; forward-thinking
  3. owning a farm or other real property
  4. person who fights for weaker people
  5. like stories of gods, angels, etc.
  6. showing things in strange way, between dream and reality
  7. person who writes plays
  8. a group of three books, films, plays, etc., like "The Lord of the Rings"
  9. common; usual
  10. put to death according to law

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for May 7, 2015

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