cover image Poet in New York

Poet in New York

Frederico Garcia Lorca, , trans. from the Spanish by Pablo Medina and Mark Statman. . Grove, $14 (183pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-4353-2

The great Spanish modernist García Lorca (1898–1936) didn't much like the Big Apple: depressed by the grime, the crowds and the tall new buildings, aghast at American capitalism with its big winners and its destitute losers, uneasy with his identity as a gay man, fascinated (and sometimes repelled) by street culture in Harlem and homesick for his native Andalusia, he turned his year at Columbia University in 1929–30 into some of the fiercest, unhappiest and strangest poems of the century. This facing-page translation—inspired, the translators say, by 9/11—preserves the oddities and the angers in Lorca's metaphor-loaded free verse. The famous “Ode to Walt Whitman” salutes the “Fairies of North America,/ Pajaros of Havana,” hoping against hope to resist self-hate. Interludes in Vermont and a coda in Cuba suggest the mystical ties with nature that Lorca could not find in Manhattan. Yet the dominant note is a brilliant hostility: at “Dawn in New York,” “furious swarms of coins/ drill and devour the abandoned children.” The Chrysler Building suggests “a million iron workers/ forging chains for the children to come.” Lorca's power, and the translators' fidelity, make this a worthy new version of a 20th-century classic. (Jan.)