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BHS, LXXVII (2000)

‘Quiero llorar’: Lorca and the Flamenco Tradition in Poeta en Nueva York ROB STONE University of Wales, Aberystwyth

In the performance of cante flamenco, the Gypsy cantaor represents the anguish of his race as he sings of his own private torment, striving for catharsis like some Christ-figure whose martyrdom might momentarily expunge the sins of his audience. The ritual of his performance is therefore, like most religious ceremonies, an act of both submission to the faith and empowerment of the faithful. Although critical appreciation of Lorca’s enthusiasm for the music and mythology of the Andalusian Gypsies has largely centred on Poema del cante jondo and Romancero gitano, this analysis of his progressive exploration of the cante in Poeta en Nueva York proposes that in his voyage to America in 1929 Lorca assumed the role of cantaor for his own persecuted, marginalized people—homosexuals. The vindication of sexuality and self-determination against the background of the sterile, dehumanized metropolis defines the volume as Lorca’s most personal and innovative poetic work. Indeed, in his ability to personify existential suffering in his own experience and works, it is evident that for Federico García Lorca Poeta en Nueva York was his deepest song of all. Prior to his departure for New York in June of 1929, Lorca endured a depression which was undoubtedly exacerbated by the failure of his relationships with both Salvador Dalí and Emilio Aladrén and their subsequent relationships with women, a fact which surely intensified the sense of marginalization which precluded his coming to terms with his homosexuality.1 Lorca appears to have suffered a breakdown which arose from the conflicts within him: the wide-eyed child inside battling against the world-weary adult that he seemed to his friends, his maleness opposed to his femininity, and his flourishing celebrity jarring with the exclusion which he suffered as homosexual pariah. Moreover, the resultant anguish was no doubt intensified by Dalí’s and Buñuel’s scorn for Romancero gitano 1

See Ian Gibson, Federico García Lorca: A Life (London: Faber and Faber, 1990),

231.

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in the sense that such criticism would have made Lorca doubt the relevance of the cante which had previously inspired him. Yet, somewhat ironically, the fatalism of the traditional cante, whose lyrics commonly express anxiety about impossible loves and solitude, must have made the philosophy of flamenco all the more relevant to his situation. The nameless, unspeakable love of the homosexual, for example, finds expression and solidarity in the following traditional copla: El amor que te tengo, es como sombra; cuanto más apartado, más cuerpo toma. Y eres a un tiempo sombra de mis amores, pues huyes de ellos.2 In addition, the bewilderment and fear of the traveller, pilgrim or exile are the standard lament of the cantaor: No soy d’esta tierra ni en eya nasí: la fortuniya, roando, roando, m’ha traío hasta aquí.3 During the transatlantic crossing, Lorca famously voiced his own crisis in a letter to Carlos Morla Lynch which emphasized that his identity depended upon his union with Andalusia and its folksong: Tengo hambre de mi tierra y de tu saloncito de todos los días. Nostalgia de charlar con vosotros y de cantaros viejas canciones de España. Me miro en el espejo estrecho de mi camarote y no me reconozco. Parezco otro Federico. (VI, 1051)4 According to Jacques Lacan, such a lack of recognition of the reflected image of oneself is evidence that the person (the Real) has changed places with his reflection (the Void).5 That is to say, the observer, believing himself to be inadequate or nullified, fails to recognize himself in the complete Other of his reflection. And here too, this sense of dislocation and vacuity finds consensual feelings in the cante: 2 Antonio Machado y Álvarez, Cantes flamencos (Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1985), 104. 3 Ibid., 43. 4 All quotes and references are to Federico García Lorca, Obras completas, ed. Miguel García-Posada (Madrid: Akal Bolsillo, 1989). 5 See Jacques Lacan, Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, introduction by David Mackey (London: Penguin, 1994) and The Seminars of Jacques Lacan, Book 1: The Ego in Freud’s Theory and the Technique of Psychoanalysis (Cambridge: Cambridge U. P., 1988).


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Maresita mía, Yo no sé por dónde al espejito donde me miraba se le fue el asogue.6 Lacan argues that this division of the self originates at the moment a child sees its own reflection and identifies with an unreal image which shows it something that it has not yet become. Thus the child recognizes itself in the Other and will continue to do so throughout its adult life. Upon arrival in New York, Lorca’s search for a validatory reflection of himself was immediately made more difficult by the absence of Nature and its attendant folklore in the concrete, fumes and cacophony of the metropolis; for, having previously interpreted the world and his existence with reference to the mythology of Nature as it appears in the cante, he found himself without a hope of finding in the city a defining reflection of his distress. As Joseph Campbell has described, such incurable duality may be common to many: Within the progressive societies themselves every last vestige of ritual, morality and art is in full decay. […] The lines of communication between the conscious and the unconscious zones of the human psyche have all been cut, and we have been split in two.7 Nevertheless, it would become clear that the solution to Lorca’s crisis of identity lay in his repetiton of the act of poetic empathy with Nature which had inspired Poema del cante jondo and Romancero gitano; namely, the appropriation of a different physical landscape as the setting for his spiritual wanderings in poetry. That is to say, Lorca would appropriate the urban nightmare of New York as the perfect reflection of the inner turmoil which he was experiencing at this time. Though Gustavo Correa maintains that ‘la pérdida de sí mismo implica la multiplicación de rostros, de los cuales ninguno de ellos logra identificarse con la forma exacta de la individualidad’,8 it is apparent that, once attuned to the frenetic pace of New York life, Lorca empathized with 6 Antonio Machado y Álvarez, Cantes flamencos, 44. Also note Lorca’s derivative viñeta, ‘Retrato de Silverio Franconetti’ in Poema del cante jondo: Los viejos Dicen que se erizaban Los cabellos, Y se abría el azogue De los espejos. (I, 342) 7 388.

Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (London: Fontana Press, 1993),

8 Gustavo Correa, La poesía mítica de Federico García Lorca, 2nd ed. (Madrid: Gredos, 1975), 172.


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the suffering of similarly displaced inhabitants such as the Blacks, Jews and zoo animals and, indeed, recognized them as reflections of himself. Subsequently, having described this phenomenon in ‘Vuelta de paseo’ as ‘Tropezando con mi rostro distinto de cada día’ (II, 247), he would internalize their suffering in ‘Fábula y rueda de los tres amigos’: ‘mi dolor lleno de rostros’ (II, 243). Thus began Lorca’s appropriation of the landscape and the suffering of its inhabitants which he would confirm in his lecture-recital on Poeta en Nueva York in 1932: ‘He dicho “un poeta en Nueva York” y he debido decir “Nueva York en un poeta” ’(VI, 343). To a poet of Lorca’s heightened sensibility, the metropolis was home to misery which he initially regarded as beyond his capability of expression: ‘La verdad real vence a la imaginación en poesía, o sea, la imaginación misma descubre su pobreza’ (VI, 281). Yet his fear and bewilderment on arrival was itself the psychic key to the reconstruction of his identity; for, as Lacan has stated, ‘anxiety is that which does not deceive’.9 Although Lorca’s early experience of the metropolis would intensify to an unbearable extent his sense of alienation, it would also allow him a degree of anonymity, creating a kind of objectivity about the extent and expression of human suffering in general. As a result, Lorca appears to have identified the cantaor as a model for voicing his protest against an inhospitable new world. Indeed, from as far back as his 1922 lecture on deep song Lorca had revered this aspect of the cantaor’s performance: El cantaor, cuando canta, celebra un solemne rito, saca las viejas esencias dormidas y las lanza al viento envueltas en su voz. (VI, 226) Lorca’s commitment to the role of cantaor became a logical step when tangible displays of oppression in New York provided obvious targets for the pent-up frustrations which he suffered. Here was the white imperialism of ‘El Rey de Harlem’, the institutionalized religion of ‘Grito hacia Roma’, rampant materialism in ‘Danza de la muerte’, the insensate populace of ‘Paisaje de la multitud que vomita’, debased sexuality in ‘Paisaje de la multitud que orina’, massive, wanton destruction of Nature in ‘Nueva York (oficina y denuncia)’, and the pantomimic effeminacy of certain kinds of homosexuals in ‘Oda a Walt Whitman’—those whose display of stereotypical behaviour was a parody of gayness which upheld the prejudices and power of society. As Robert Havard has observed: Lorca used New York as a pretext and as a whipping boy, or, in dream terms, as a displaced object upon which to transfer and vent his anger.

9

Jacques Lacan, Four Fundamental Concepts, 41.


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[…] The city has a cathartic facility which enables the poet to release a flood of repressed emotions and protestations.10 Correlatively, it is this element of catharsis in Poeta en Nueva York which confirms Lorca’s affinity with the cantaor, whose words, gestures and cries interpret in physical and oral language the frustrations and anguish of his audience, thus alleviating their tensions. In other words, by giving vent to his deepest, most personal anguish, the cantaor also aims to exorcize his audience. Obviously the Gypsy cantaor is empowered by performing to an audience whose feelings echo his own, whereas the middle-class and largely heterosexual audience at Lorca’s plays and readings would in most cases have been unlikely to share his sense of deprivation and sexual marginalization. However, the subversive action of Lorca’s works on an unsuspecting audience is equally important. Empathy and catharsis may unite the cantaor or poet with his fellow sufferers, but political protest and subversion is no less an element of the performance. If the audience at a reading of Poeta en Nueva York or a performance of El Público, for example, were as committed as that at a flamenco juerga to acts of empathy and self-analysis, the result of the performance would be catharsis: a liberation of instincts and an acceptable risk of anarchy. But if, as is most likely, a bourgeois audience were uncomprehending or unsuspecting, the result would be dangerously provocative. As Lorca claimed of El público: Es el espejo del público. Es ir haciendo desfilar en escena los dramas propios que cada uno de los espectadores está pensando, mientras está mirando, muchas veces sin fijarse, la representación. Y como el drama de cada uno a veces es muy punzante y generalmente nada honroso, pues los espectadores en seguida se levantarían indignados e impedirían que continuara la representación. (VI, 564) Lorca’s empathy and compassion, on the other hand, were for the oppressed minorities. His representation of their suffering therefore emphasized his solidarity at the same time as the social and political validity of his work was confirmed in an era of burgeoning Marxist thought and action. Consequently, just as the tales of Gypsy persecution in Romancero gitano may be understood to function as metaphorical illustrations of Lorca’s personal concerns, so too do his explicit examinations of homosexual marginalization and distress in Poeta en Nueva York add another voice—the gay voice—to the existential howl of 10 Robert Havard, ‘Dreams and Nightmares in Lorca’s “Poeta en Nueva York” ’, in Catholic Tastes and Times: Essays in Honour of Michael E. Williams, ed. Margaret A. Rees (Leeds: Trinity and All Saints’ College, 1987), 199–232 (p. 216).


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the disenfranchised. Moreover, in New York Lorca would realize that the Gypsy cante was just one of many ‘dialects’ pertaining to a universal language of the oppressed—a concept which is the key to the understanding of his personal catharsis and growing political commitment. Other such dialects were everywhere in the multi-racial, polytheistic metropolis, most notably the Blues and spirituals of the Blacks, of which Lorca exclaimed: ‘¡Pero qué maravilla de cantos! Sólo se puede comparar con ellos el cante jondo’ (VI, 1063). Later, his appreciation of the universality of the cante would be famously underlined by the musicality of his welcome in Cuba: ‘Salen la morena Trinidad de mi niñez. […] Y salen los negros con sus ritmos que yo descubro típicos del gran pueblo andaluz’ (VI, 352). But there was also the Jewish lament, whose ‘canto era terrible, patético, desconsolado. Era una queja continua de belleza impresionante’ (VI, 1065), while the Russian liturgical chant struck Lorca as ‘una especie de lamento de melodía precisa’ (VI, 1071). The fact that the Jewish and Russian forms of ritualized singing were integral to the ceremony of institutionalized religions was irrelevant. Indeed, Lorca’s empathy was entirely consistent with the role of the cantaor in that it was firmly with the audience of the ritual, the congregation or choir whose spirituality was most eloquently expressed in their song. Never mind the particular dogma of their respective religions, all had proven by their attendance at the ritual that they felt themselves to be inhabitants of a sinful world and were in need of a sustaining faith. For this reason they had sought individual and/or group identity in the context of a persuasive religion, while inadvertently joining in the cante universal with their song. It was part of Lorca’s genius to realize that the union of all these voices could provoke the recognition of their common identity as ‘la otra mitad’ which he characterized in the poem ‘Grito hacia Roma’. Indeed, Lorca’s perception of a potential solidarity amongst religious minorities and the social underclasses was based upon the similarities inherent in their particular forms of song: No hay más que un gentío de lamentos que se abren las ropas en espera de la bala. (II, 293) Subsequently, Lorca will vindicate this oppressed ‘other half’ in ‘Nueva York (oficina y denuncia)’ on account of their ability to sing their songs of anguish, penance or imploration and to appreciate the songs of other marginalized people such as himself: ‘La otra mitad me escucha / devorando, cantando, volando en su pureza’ (II, 281). Indeed, the titular denunciation of the poem is Lorca’s most explicit diatribe against oppressive capitalism: Yo denuncio a toda la gente que ignora la otra mitad. (II, 281)


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As a result, the reconstruction of Lorca’s identity appears to have been dependent upon his appraisal of cante flamenco as a dialect of a universal language of song which he could also claim to sing. In Saussurean terms, this cante universal is the langue, a totality of language which is shared by the collective unconscious of the people. The different styles of song, such as flamenco or the Blues, therefore constitute the parole, the fundamental resource of the language which various groups or individuals employ. In other words, the cante universal is an instinctive howl which, refined and rhythmatized, finds expression in the similar songs of disparate people. Noam Chomsky makes an analogous distinction between innate language competence and the actual performance of the speaker; while the anthropological conclusions of Bruce Chatwin return us to the concept of language as the defining factor in the self-determination of the human species: All animals, insects, birds, mammals, dolphins, fish and humpback whales have a navigation system we call ‘triangulation’. The mysteries of Chomskyian sentence structure become very simple if they are thought of as human triangulation. Subject-Object-Verb.11 The role of the cantaor in this attempt at human triangulation is thus defined as portavoz or ‘channeller’ of the tensions of the group which he represents, a conclusion which Lorca had already expressed in his lecture of 1922 entitled Importancia histórica y artística del primitivo canto andaluz llamado ‘cante jondo’ (VI, 207–27): La raza se vale de ellos para dejar escapar su dolor y su historia verídica. Son simples mediums, crestas líricas de nuestro pueblo. (VI, 226) Individual anguish and a history of marginalization are thus transformed through performance into group solidarity and identity.12 The cantaor who wails a siguiriya which contains lines such as ‘¡Ay, probe corasón mío! / Por más gorpes que resibe / nunca se da por bensío’13 is speaking on behalf of his listeners and is accordingly exalted as a portavoz of their fate and a potent symbol of their martyrdom. As Roland Barthes has declared: ‘The author is not the person who invents the finest stories but the person who best masters the code which is practised equally by his listeners’.14 Further evidence of the existence of a universal language is present in Lorca’s specific appreciation of the affined songs of the Blacks and the 11 Bruce Chatwin, The Songlines (London: Jonathan Cape, 1988), 314. 12 Indeed, it is notable that the word compás means both rhythm and directional instrument. 13 Antonio Machado y Álvarez, Cantes flamencos, 21. 14 Roland Barthes, Image, Music, Text (London: Fontana Press, 1977), 115.


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Gypsies, with their comparable techniques of humming, moaning, chorus, clapping, percussion, improvisation, hollers, repetition, colloquialisms and interjected ayes. The anguish of the Blacks’ songs was, in essence, a cry of protest against a hostile environment which had contracted into an essentially political expression of solidarity and revolutionary thought. The servility which the Blacks displayed in the infamous Cotton Club, for example, where they performed for an exclusively white audience, was a mask of subservience, behind which burned the resentment and anguish of the forcibly displaced. In the words of James Baldwin: Harlem wears to the casual observer a casual face; no one remarks that […] the face is, indeed, somewhat excessively casual and may not be as open or careless as it seems.15 This casual face was a mask, a false identity which circumstances and conditions had imposed. Indeed, the mask of subservience and denial which Lorca diagnosed in his own character was analogous to this mascarón of the Blacks that he observed in the metropolis, where, as he exclaims in ‘Danza de la muerte’, the oppressive society might be overthrown by the casting-off of this false identity and the renovation of the extant primitivism of the Blacks: El mascarón. ¡Mirad el mascarón! ¡Cómo escupe veneno de bosque por la angustia imperfecta de Nueva York! (II, 262) Lorca would subsequently extend the revolutionary fervour to incite other oppressed people in ‘Grito hacia Roma’, where his appreciation of the cante as agitprop is confirmed by appropriate recourse to the ayes, the grito and the cumulative repetition of the traditional deep song: Mientras tanto, mientras tanto ¡ay! mientras tanto, los negros que sacan las escupideras, los muchachos que tiemblan bajo el terror pálido de los directores, las mujeres ahogadas en aceites minerales, la muchedumbre de martillo, de violín o de nube, ha de gritar aunque le estrellen los sesos en el muro, ha de gritar frente a las cúpulas, ha de gritar loca de fuego ha de gritar loca de nieve, ha de gritar con la cabeza llena de excremento, ha de gritar como todas las noches juntas, ha de gritar con voz tan desgarrada hasta que las ciudades tiemblen como niñas. (II, 295) 15 James Baldwin ‘The Harlem Ghetto’, in Notes of a Native Son (London: Penguin, 1995), 60.


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As the example demonstrates, structural similarities to the cante are a constant adjunct to the presence in Poeta en Nueva York of typical imagery from the mythology of flamenco. Indeed, the poems themselves often resemble in concrete terms the voice of the cantaor, with their broken rhythms, the enronquecimiento of their exhaustive enjambement and the abrupt modulations of tone, pitch and volume which would be required in their recitation. In addition, the occasionally resonant ayes serve as emotional anchorage for Lorca’s appropriately paranoid flights of imagination. The nightmarish expression of ‘Ya que tengo que entregar mi rostro, / mi rostro, ¡Mi rostro!, ay, mi comido rostro’ in ‘Luna y panorama de los insectos’ (II, 274), for example, may be explained in the context of the cante, in which the cantaor commonly bewails the erosion of his identity as a result of crises such as displacement, unemployment or sexual inadequacy, and then projects this anxiety towards his audience as a foretaste of mortality and the decay of their inevitable corpses. Amongst other poems, the archetypical Gypsy lament also features in ‘Danza de la muerte’ (‘¡Ay, Wall street!’) and ‘El rey de Harlem’ (‘¡Ay, Harlem disfrazada!’), a poem which exploits the synonym of llorar/cantar at the same time as the wind appears as signifier of duende, thus provoking both the cante of the Blacks and their accompanying dance:16 Los negros lloraban confundidos … y el viento empañaba espejos y quebraba las venas de los bailarines. (II, 252) Furthermore, in elaborating the Lacanian concept of displaced identity into that of the African mascarón, Lorca indicates a correlative belief that the downfall of the oppressors would arise from their ignorance of the ‘sangre furiosa por debajo de las pieles’ (II, 254)—the truth behind the mask: a life force which united the oppressed and which found expression in their respective songs. In Lacanian terms, the mask is the image which the bearer presents to the world, but which consequently returns a reflection which he does not recognize as his own. This duality is clearly central to the crisis of identity which Lorca himself suffered; yet, by a simple extension of this theory, it is possible to appreciate one’s reflection as an aural as well as a visual concept, in other words the reflection becomes an echo. A Black who expresses himself in the pidgin of his oppressors, for example, will not recognize his voice as his own. Thus, a conflict occurs between the conventions of civilized language and the primitive sounds of the cante. And conversely, the heartfelt moans and hollers, the authentic 16 This is a concept best illustrated in Poema del cante jondo when, in ‘Paisaje’, ‘se riza el aire gris’ (I, 298), which prompts the eponymous cry of the cantaor in the following poem, ‘El grito’. Note also the trembling reeds in ‘Paisaje’ (I, 298), the trembling windows in ‘Noche’ (I, 319) and the trembling streetlights in ‘Sorpresa’ (I, 311).


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colloquialisms, particular vocal modulations and spontaneous ayes of the cante or Blues suggest that racial identities are sustained and developed in their performance. As Herder concluded: Our artificial language may have superseded the spontaneous language of nature; our urban civilization and our social conventions may have checked, dried up, and diverted the flood and the ocean of passions. And yet, in a moment of violent sensation, no matter where or how it may occur, the spontaneous element in language will reassert itself in its original force in everyone’s mother tongue.17 Lorca’s frequent adoption of features of the cante therefore implies a conscious attempt at self-determination by recourse to the language of flamenco, the mother tongue which had sustained his creativity through Poema del cante jondo and Romancero gitano. To this effect, when the violent sensations of New York threaten to erode his identity, they also provoke in him the spontaneous element of language—the cry. In performance, the cry of the cantaor is an echo of the audience’s own misfortune, signifying the look into the abyss, which, in turn, provokes duende: ‘el duende no se acerca si no ve posibilidad de muerte’ (VI, 336). For the audience there occurs a rebounding from the performance of the cantaor to a weighty silence after his cry—a communal step back from the abyss which promotes self-reflection. The cante is thus a process of psychic renewal for all concerned. If, however, as Paul Binding contends, Poeta en Nueva York merely ‘presents us with a vision of America from a homosexual standpoint’,18 it would confine the poems’ relevance to those who shared Lorca’s particular sexual leanings. But the universality of Lorca’s protest is revealed in the sense that, though he performs as portavoz for a particular persecuted minority, he adheres to the concept of a universal language and merely allies an apposite voice to those which are already sounding. Subsequently, in the same way in which the cantaor refers to those aspects of flamenco mythology which best illustrate his personal misfortune, Lorca transforms archetypical poetic imagery into personally relevant symbols of his anguish. The lunar deity Apollo, for example, commonly represents a balance and harmony of passions which is ‘achieved not by suppressing instinctive impulses but by directing them through the development of awareness towards an ever-increasing spiritualization’.19 The reference to ‘Apolo virginal’ in ‘Oda a Walt Whitman’ (II, 297), with its

17 Josef Von Herder, ‘Essay on the Origin of Language’, in Herder on Social and Political Culture, ed. F. M. Barnard (Cambridge: Cambridge U. P., 1969), 118. 18 Paul Binding, Lorca: The Gay Imagination (London: GMP Publishers, 1985), 18. 19 Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant, The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols (London: Penguin, 1996), 34.


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diatribe against malignant representations of homosexuality as a counterpoint to the heroic sensuality of Apollo and Whitman, is thus a clear indication that Lorca appropriated the figure in order to combine his masculinity with the usual feminine lunar imagery of the cante. An ‘Apolo detenido’ duly appears as a symbol of repressed sexuality in ‘Tu infancia en Menton’ (II, 240), a poem whose refrain is particulary reminiscent of the style and lyrics of a typical cante: ¡Amor de siempre, amor, amor de nunca! ¡Oh, sí! Yo quiero. ¡Amor, amor! Dejadme. (II, 240) Most importantly, the reference to a virginal Apollo in ‘Oda a Walt Whitman’ suggests that Lorca believed in a period of pre-sexual innocence which incorporated this harmonious balance of masculinity and femininity, but which was terminated by puberty, the child’s metamorphosis into a sexually aware, active and possibly marginalized adult. Here, in Freudian terms, an imbalance in the psyche of the adolescent may be caused by its repression of those aspects of its sexuality which society deems to be unsuitable or perverse. A person of uncertain sexuality might actively seek to avoid the trauma of metamorphosis through puberty by clinging to a childish asexuality which, inevitably, is perverted by conflicting hormones and which may result in a mother fixation or, at worst, paedophilia—two conditions which society commonly links with male homosexuality (i.e. the sissy and the pederast). However, in Poeta en Nueva York Lorca employs the butterfly as a symbol of dream-like aspirations which, when contextualized by the metamorphosis of puberty, may be understood in Freudian terms as the elusive realization of his true sexuality. In the retrospective poem ‘Vuelta de paseo’ the butterfly is ‘ahogada en el tintero’ (II, 247), thus indicating the repressed voice of the adolescent poet and a corresponding slaying of his aspirations. However, the butterfly as a symbol of artistic and sexual ambition is subsequently resurrected in Lorca’s description of Walt Whitman: ‘tu barba llena de mariposas’ (II, 297). Whitman’s ‘hermosura viril’ therefore suggests both a celebration of the potential for metamorphosis of socially maligned homosexuals and the freedom of creativity which Lorca sees in this role model: Lacan’s Other which was denied him as a youth. Moreover, if this potential were realized as Lorca suggests in ‘Ciudad de sueño’, the metamorphosis of the figure of the homosexual from social pariah to an icon of sensuality would, one hopeful day, become a reality: ‘Otro día / veremos la resurrección de las mariposas disecadas’ (II, 265). Conversely, having established Whitman as a validatory reflection of himself, Lorca’s subsequent virulent attack on ‘maricas de todo el mundo’ indicates a reversal of the Lacanian process by which society views Whitman and himself as degenerates. Lorca’s apparent homophobia here


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seems in reality to be more an attack on the established stereotype which was personified by those homosexual men that both Lorca and society identified as maricas: the ‘queers’ whose behaviour constituted a caricature which, in turn, allowed society to signal the degeneracy of gayness and thus undermine the heroism which Lorca perceived in homosexual rolemodels such as Whitman. That is to say, whereas society had sustained its own morality, laws and identity by projecting its fears and prejudices onto the Other (be it Gypsy, Black or homosexual), Lorca, crucially, had begun to see modern society as the Other—a construct of the irrational fears of the oppressed. As a result, the predominantly white, sedentary and supposedly heterosexual population of the metropolis (the ‘silent majority’ of modern parlance) can only oppress an individual or group if that individual or group is willing to accept the identity that is imposed upon it. Those who actively and vociferously celebrate their equal rights at the same time as the validity of their differences—Gay Pride! Black Power!—are involved in an act of social revolution which involves a reversal of the process by which society has marginalized them for those same differences. Lorca’s response to racial or sexual discrimination was equally retaliatory and never more scornful than when referring to those members of a maligned group (such as the ‘maricas de todo el mundo’ or the Blacks that tried to act white) who accepted and made an open display of the roles which society imposed upon them and so brought unwarranted shame on others of the same sex or race: Pero yo protestaba todos los días [...] de lo más triste, de que los negros no quieran ser negros, de que se inventen pomadas para quitar el delicioso rizado del cabello, y polvos que vuelven la cara gris, y jarabes que ensanchan la cintura y marchitan el suculento kaki de los labios. (VI, 347) The primary consequence of this protest is that it allies the imagery and language of Poeta en Nueva York with kindred expressions of the cante. The secondary effect is that, in the context of Poeta en Nueva York, modern society is robbed of its privileged view of itself as a perfect whole in comparison with the fragmented Otherness of gays or Blacks. That is to say, the unification of the oppressed effectively redefines modern society as racist and homophobic: the Other of the minorities’ making. This Other is represented in ‘Vuelta de paseo’ as a shapeless form which merges and separates in its mindless movement towards what can justifiably be interpreted as the subway (‘la sierpe’) or office block (‘el cristal’): ‘las formas que van hacia la sierpe / y las formas que van hacia el cristal’ (II, 247). Following this, the image of the multitudinous Other is developed further in two poems (‘Paisaje de la multitud que vomita’ and ‘Paisaje de la


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multitud que orina’) whose titles indicate a concept, appropriated from the cante, which sees people as part and product of their landscape. In the first poem/paisaje, Lorca’s metaphorical interpretation of the oppressive multitude is ‘la mujer gorda’, a character which suggests not just the human freak exhibit of Coney Island funfair, but the crowd itself which carries Lorca along helplessly, arms pinned at his sides, crushing him like a bolus of food through the digestive system, only to ‘vomit’ him back out the entrance of the funfair: Yo, poeta sin brazos, perdido entre la multitud que vomita, sin caballo efusivo que corte los espesos musgos de mis sienes. (II, 264) Following this ordeal, Lorca as panic-stricken cantaor—el vómito incarnate—bewails his plight in an address to familiar lunar symbolism and typical exclamations from the cante: El vómito agitaba delicadamente sus tambores entre algunas niñas de sangre que pedían protección a la luna. ¡Ay de mí! ¡Ay de mí! ¡Ay de mí! (II, 264) Subsequently, in the tradition of the cante whereby the cantaor seeks absolution or guidance from such pantheistic natural symbolism as the moon or the wind, Lorca is obliged to return to the pre-sexual innocence of his childhood union with Nature and reclaim his rights as male from this mythic infancy (‘tu niñez ya fábula de fuentes’), which he revisits in the sequence of poems written during his journey to the woods and lakes of Vermont and Newburgh. Indeed, this period of relative solitude and the consequent opportunity for reflection was in itself commensurate with the vocation of the cantaor: Ar campesito solo me boy a yorá; como tengo yena e penas el arma busco soleá.20 Only by these means may he attain a rebirth of the sense of self from which he, as autonomous, liberated adult, may evolve. In concrete terms, therefore, it was to be Lorca’s physical return to the mythical world of childhood during his sojourn to Vermont and Newburgh which allowed for the renewal of his acquaintance with Nature, a fresh appreciation of its symbolism as it appears in the cante and the realization of his dream. The poem ‘1910’ was written just before leaving the city for Vermont 20 Antonio Machado y Álvarez, Cantes flamencos, 46.


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and its title appears to indicate Lorca’s choice of the date as significant of his fall from innocence to awareness, while the subtitle ‘Intermedio’, as Harris indicates, underlines the transitoriness of his childhood.21 The poem itself is a combination of wistfulness and spite which describes a period prior to the fall: a time when the moon was ‘incomprensible’ and duende was ignored (‘el aire sin gente’), a state of ignorance rather than innocence which ended when ‘el sueño tropezaba con la realidad’ (II, 237). The repetitive incantation of ‘Aquellos ojos míos’ suggests the poet’s melancholic estrangement from his younger self, while a growing sense of bitter nostalgia provides a clear parallel with typical lyrics from the cante: De cosas pasaás no quieo yo acordarme; porque me yora mi corasonsito gotitas e sangre.22 Later, with ‘Poema doble del lago Eden’, Lorca makes explicit reference to the Biblical notions of martyrdom and the Fall and returns to the Lacanian sense of duality in the ‘doubling’ of the poem. In concrete terms, this ‘doubling’ may refer to the mirror-like surface of the still waters of the eponymous Lake Eden in which Lorca, surrounded by Nature, saw himself reflected as a young boy once again. In a letter to Ángel del Río, he wrote: ‘Los bosques y el lago me sumen en un estado de desesperación muy difícil de sostener […] y toda mi infancia viene a mi memoria envuelta en una gloria de amapolas y cereales’ (VI, 1079). Indeed, the conflicting duality of anguished adult and innocent child which he embodied anew is evident in the opening lines which fuse his ancient voice as cantaor with the presexual ignorance of his childhood: Era mi voz antigua ignorante de los densos jugos amargos la que vino lamiendo mis pies sobre los frágiles helechos mojados. (II, 277) Communion with Nature is thus indicated by the metaphorical transmutation of Lorca’s voice into the shallow waves of the lake around his feet, while the religious connotations of the image relate to Christ’s washing of the apostles’ feet as a symbol of his penance and martyrdom, a parallel which is developed in the second verse with its reference to the crucifixion and the siguiriya-like ayes and cries:

21 Derek Harris, Poet in New York: Introduction and Commentary (London: Grant and Cutler, 1978), 27. 22 Antonio Machado y Álvarez, Cantes flamencos, 46.


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¡Ay voz antigua de mi amor! ¡Ay voz de mi verdad! ¡Ay voz de mi abierto costado! (II, 277) In the end, the wind/duende shatters the reflected image of Lorca’s younger self (‘mis ojos se quiebran en el viento’ [II, 277]), as if rejecting the false image which corresponds to the identity imposed by the censure of the dominant Catholic Church and Lorca’s complicit understanding that his own duplicity was essential to his social standing and, by inference, that of his beloved family. Thus, Lorca recognizes puberty as his fall from carefree liberty to the secrecy and anguish of his adolescence and early adulthood which would lead him to the cante in search of an assuasive philosophy that he would subsequently explore in his poetry, lectures and plays. The original heterosexual icons of the Catholic Church are therefore denigrated (‘Eva come hormigas / y Adán fecunda peces deslumbrados’), while Lorca situates himself in the mirror image of the reflected Eden, i.e. in the Real World where the sexual norm of the reflection (the Other) is reversed and his sexuality is consequently validated. The duality or mirror relationship which he explores in the poem thus culminates in his vindication of the abyss of the real: his adult self. In other words, Lorca concludes the crisis begun in the cabin of his transatlantic crossing by understanding that his reflection/mask of heterosexual, bourgeois señorito is the oppressive fantasy of which he no longer has any need. As a member of a homophobic society, Lorca had been obliged to conceal that side of himself since adolescence ‘porque yo no soy un poeta ni un hombre ni una hoja / pero sí un pulso herido que ronda las cosas del otro lado’ (II, 278). However, following his rejection of the indoctrinatory iconography of the Church he is at liberty to exalt paganistic duende (‘la brisa que nadie quiera’) as the maligned spiritguide which has enabled him to realize his true self: Pero no quiero mundo, ni sueño, voz divina, quiero mi libertad, mi amor humano en el rincón más oscuro de la brisa que nadie quiera. ¡Mi amor humano! (II, 278) Thus ‘Poema doble del lago Eden’ brings Lorca’s life-journey up to date; for, despite society’s opinion of homosexuality (‘la burla’) and the prejudicial interpretation of manliness (‘la sugestión del vocablo’), his maleness and masculinity are validated by the pre-emptive cry of the cante: Quiero llorar diciendo mi nombre, Rosa, niña y abeto a la orilla de este lago para decir mi verdad de hombre de sangre matando en mí la burla y la sugestión del vocablo. (II, 278)


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Finally, in extending this personal catharsis to his audience, Lorca invokes the cante once more as an aid to confronting the frightening but evidently superficial and ultimately powerless city, a place where shiny buildings (‘de hojalata’) and cosmeticized people (‘de talco’) are the false gods of the masses: ¡Oh voz antigua, quema con tu lengua esta voz de hojalata y de talco! (II, 278) In other words, Lorca appropriates the figure of cantaor to make use of his suffering and effect a protest against a malevolent fate. The response or echo of the universal language of the cante becomes that of his own voice as poet/cantaor and the aural duality is also resolved: ‘Voz mía libertada que me lames las manos’ (II, 278). Thus, it is by aspiring to the performance of the cante as an act of conscious union with his reflected self that Lorca fulfils the prophecy of Lacan: It is through this separated form of himself that the being comes into play in his effects of life and death, and it might be said that it is with the help of this doubling of the other, or of oneself, that is realized the conjunction from which proceeds the renewal of beings.23 In reliving his life from this new perspective as cantaor, Lorca is liberated from the identity which society had imposed upon him and, by breaking the mould from which society has created examples of the homosexual Other, he becomes a portavoz for all similarly persecuted people. Lorca as cantaor duly appropriates the suffering of the ‘Niña ahogada en el pozo’ and ‘El niño Stanton’ as tales worthy of performance and, in the latter poem, bewails that which threatens to silence his protest: ‘el agrio cáncer mudo que quiere acostarse contigo’ (II, 271). As before, the only hope for recovery and renewal is to commune once more with Nature, to be reconciled against this spiritual wasteland, to celebrate love in any form, and so live life to its fullest: Stanton, vete al bosque con tus arpas judías, vete para aprender celestiales palabras que duermen en los troncos, en nubes, en tortugas, en los perros dormidos, en el plomo, en el viento, en lirios que no duermen, en aguas que no copian, para que aprendas, hijo, lo que tu pueblo olvida. (II, 272) The Lorca who returned to the metropolis was a resurrected man. In a letter to Melchor Fernández Almagro, dated 30 September 1929, he wrote: ‘Ya he salido de mi asombro, trabajo y me divierto’ (VI, 1086); and he was even more succinct in a letter to Carlos Morla Lynch: ‘Ha vuelto a nacer 23 Jacques Lacan, Four Fundamental Concepts, 107.


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aquel Federico de antes’ (VI, 1093). Thanks to ‘la experiencia más util de mi vida’ (VI, 352), he had attained the validation and vocation which came from recognizing that his existential cry was echoed by so many similar songs of suffering. As a result, a new belief in his homosexuality as a legitimate, natural instinct empowered him to denounce the society which had condemned him: ‘porque vengo del campo y creo que lo más importante no es el hombre’ (VI, 351). Indeed, when Derek Harris claims that ‘the stock market collapse could well have appeared to him as the collapse of the American dream, reflecting the tottering state of his inner world’,24 the exact opposite is true; for, as Ángel Sahuquillo has written: ‘Obligado a ser Otro, defiende con orgullo su otredad’,25 and if his enthusiastic defence results in the destruction of the city and the unmasking of the American Dream as the nightmare for so many, then so much the better. As dissected in ‘Navidad en el Hudson’ (II, 285), Lorca’s ambition in his new role as cantaor was to present his audience with the example to be followed; and it is to this end that he lists those aspects of performer and performance which had replaced his duality with the unity of his life and works. Thus he celebrates his free-thinking brain (‘¡Oh esponja mía gris!’), his new voice as cantaor (‘¡Oh cuello mío recién degollado!’), his life itself (‘¡Oh río grande mío!’), duende (‘¡Oh brisa mía de limites que no son míos!’) and, most pertinently, his particular sexuality (‘¡Oh filo de mi amor, oh hiriente filo!’). And so, at the end of his voyage Lorca made his way to Cuba, where, if he harboured any doubts as to the righteousness of his union with the universal language, they were immediately swept away by the celebratory rhythm and affined lyrical melancholy of the indigenous song: ‘Pero qué es esto? ¿Otra vez la Andalucía mundial? Sale la morena Trinidad de mi niñez […] Y salen los negritos sin drama que ponen los ojos en blanco y dicen: “Nosotros somos latinos” ’ (VI, 352). For Lorca, their refreshing rhythms were ‘como una brisa de la isla’, and in his appropriation of the same in ‘Son de negros de Cuba’ he would continue the transposition of extant forms of the universal language of the cante which he had begun in the seminal Poema del cante jondo. In the words of his son, the metamorphosis or deliverance of the oppressed became a promise of a better life which he identified with the paradise of Cuba, a refuge and a stronghold for those who sought such metamorphosis in the cante: Cuando la palma quiere ser cigüeña iré a Santiago […] ¡Oh Cuba! ¡Oh ritmo de semillas secas! (II, 303) 24 Derek Harris, Poet in New York, 10. 25 Ángel Sahuquillo, Federico García Lorca y la cultura de la homosexualidad (Stockholm: Akademitrych, 1986), 139.


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The act of concluding Poeta en Nueva York and the subsequent lecturerecital with the son was an indication that Lorca had achieved a definite sense of identity as a result of following the philosophy and faith of the cante. As it appears in Poeta en Nueva York, the son is a conclusion of sorts to the life-journey or pilgrimage which he had embarked upon in his lecture on deep song in 1922: Me había evocado a mí (lírico incurable) un camino sin fin, un camino sin encrucijadas. (VI, 209) Lorca’s voyage to America and the Caribbean had begun with the fragmentation of his personality, but had concluded with the contraction of his poetic sensibilites into an essential system based upon the universal language of the cante. In expressing his innermost anguish of duality, existential fears and sexual nullification, Lorca was able to harness its previously destructive power to the generation of his cry, i.e. his poetic expression. The furiously kaleidoscopic images of decay, mutilation, and disease which dominate Poeta en Nueva York are a testament to the feverish state of mind which this cathartic process required, and they reveal the links with Surrealism which many critics have analysed, and which Lorca attributed to the complicit powers of duende: Lo primero que hay que hacer es pedir ayuda al duende, que es la única manera de que todos se enteren sin ayuda de inteligencia ni aparato crítico, salvando de modo instantáneo la difícil comprensión de la metáfora y cazando, con la misma velocidad que la voz, el diseño rítmico del poema. (VI, 344) Moreover, the expression of his sexuality in his work was correspondent to a growing political agenda of self-determination and autonomy. Far from straying from the camino sagrado which the philosophy of flamenco had revealed, he had achieved the catharsis which allied him with the cantaor who ‘loses himself’ in the presence of duende in order to redefine Gypsy identity in his performance. As Lorca stated in a letter from Cuba to his family in April of 1930: ‘Si yo me pierdo, que me busquen en Andalucía o en Cuba’ (VI, 1100). He need not have feared. The committed, innovative poems of Poeta en Nueva York were a clear indication that he had found his rightful voice and the selfhood that went with it.


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