Review: Collected Poems

Posted 4 October, 2016 by Lianne in Books / 4 Comments

Collected Poems
By: Federico Garcia Lorca
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

A revised edition of this major writer’s complete poetical work

And I who was walking
with the earth at my waist,
saw two snowy eagles
and a naked girl.
The one was the other
and the girl was neither.
-from “Qasida of the Dark Doves”

Federico García Lorca is the greatest poet of twentieth-century Spain and one of the world’s most influential modernist writers. Christopher Maurer, a leading García Lorca scholar and editor, has substantially revised FSG’s earlier edition of the collected poems of this charismatic and complicated figure, who-as Maurer says in his illuminating introduction-“spoke unforgettably of all that most interests us: the otherness of nature, the demons of personal identity and artistic creation, sex, childhood, and death.”

Regular readers of this blog knows that Federico Garcia Lorca is one of my favourite poets ever. I can’t remember how I first encountered his poems–I think someone had used one of his poems in their fanart and I just fell in love with the way he strung his words. After reading a selection of his poems, I realised I made a mistake: I should have bought his Collected Poems instead of his Selected Verse. Oops, but then I didn’t know that I would love his works as much as I do. Well, I finally corrected that mistake when I picked up this volume earlier this year 😉

I don’t know how to go about writing something resembling a review–or even a blurb, really–about my favourite poet’s works. Indeed his poems encompasses that notion of duende, of spirit, of something deeply and profoundly human that, on a personal note, I can never quite find words to describe but Lorca’s poetry somehow does. Whether short or long, there’s something about his poetry that evokes an emotion, or something in nature or mundane that captures something quintessentially human. There’s a haunting beauty to his work; stunning, and yet some of the themes he touches on are quite dark or quite sorrowful, of an end we know is coming but can’t really quite comprehend.

It’s nice to finally read all of his poems collected in one tome, including his uncollected poems, which was nice. It’s also interesting to see his progression as a poet, experimenting with long verse and short, different imagery and style. I have a ton of favourite poems from him, of course, too many to list here, but here’s an early favourite (actually the first poem of his that I read):

Ghazal of Dark Death
I want to sleep the sleep of the apples,
I want to get far away from the busyness of the cemeteries.
I want to sleep the sleep of that child
who longed to cut his heart open far out at sea.

I don’t want them to tell me again how the corpse keeps all its blood,
how the decaying mouth goes on begging for water.
I’d rather not hear about the torture sessions the grass arranges for
nor about how the moon does all its work before dawn
with its snakelike nose.

I want to sleep for half a second,
a second, a minute, a century,
but I want everyone to know that I am still alive,
that I have a golden manger inside my lips,
that I am the little friend of the west wind,
that I am the elephantine shadow of my own tears.

When it’s dawn just throw some sort of cloth over me
because I know dawn will toss fistfuls of ants at me,
and pour a little hard water over my shoes
so that the scorpion claws of the dawn will slip off.

Because I want to sleep the sleep of the apples,
and learn a mournful song that will clean all earth away from me,
because I want to live with that shadowy child
who longed to cut his heart open far out at sea.

And here’s another favourite for good measure (a new favourite; haven’t encountered this one in the other collections I own):

In a Corner of the Sky
The old
shuts her bleary eyes.

The new
wants to paint the night

(In the firtrees on the mountains:

I will admit that my least favourite were the New York ones; I dunno, they personally don’t move me as much as the other poems do. Nonetheless I cannot recommend Federico Garcia Lorca’s poetry enough; whether you don’t read poetry often or you read quite a bit, his works is definitely worth checking out (and owning several copies of *blushes*)

Rating: ★★★★★

Learn more about the author on Wikipedia || Order a copy from the Book Depository

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4 Responses to “Review: Collected Poems”

  1. Isi

    I was taking a look at your poetry books’ reviews. It is weird that I have only read Lorca in the textbooks at school, maybe I should try this author again.
    Since he’s Spanish and it’s a classic author, I would recommend Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer to you, if you haven’t read him yet. Everyone loves Bécquer at a certain time, when you discover his poems, it is said in my country.

    • Thanks for the recommendation with Becquer! 🙂 Question: any recommendation on where to start? I see he has a lot of books listed on GoodReads…

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