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granada la bella blog

About this blog

Here you will find my personal view about selected events relating to Granada, 'the city where anything is possible', Granada, 'la bella y la bestia', and particularly about the city's uneasy relationship with its greatest son, Federico Garcia Lorca, who alternatively loved and loathed it.

Lorca’s breakthrough

Federico Garcia Lorca Posted on Fri, June 09, 2017 19:10:27

Lorca fought with some determination to
establish himself as a poet and found himself frustrated in his mid-twenties
when his play Mariana Pineda ran into
trouble with Primo de Rivero’s censorship. The end of the summer 1926 finds Lorca
at an impasse. His father is angry with him for what he sees as the lack of
direction in his son’s life, with little apparent promise of any artistic
success. He threatens to put an end to his idle versifying. “Summer is coming
to an end and I’m left stranded without the least sign of any start to my work
as a dramatic poet in which I have so much faith and which would bring me such happiness,”
he writes to the theatre empresario Eduardo Marquina in the hope that this man might
yet rescue Mariana Pineda for him.

Such is his desperation that he begins to toy
with the idea of getting a proper job. At the beginning of September, he writes
to his friend Jorge Guillén that he has decided to do the exams for the Chair
of Literature. He tries hard to convince himself that he has a vocation for the
academic life. “Tell me what I have to do,” he asks Guillén, who has just
been appointed to the Chair of Literature in Murcia. “Remember I’m neither
intelligent nor hard-working. A lazy-bones!”

Guillén’s good humoured and humorous reply
seems to be designed to put the aspiring poet off from embarking on any
academic career. “First, you must read a lot”, he says. “Not only poetry and
prose, but also all the books that have been written about those poetry and
prose works. And you must make notes of what you have read.” “But that’s not half so bad,” he continues,
“for then you need to keep a file so that you can find all the notes that you
have written. As a first step, buy a box to file your notes. That will impress
your father no end and show him you are serious about your new academic bent.”

Salvador Dalí, for his part, is equally
scathing about his friend’s new-found academic ambition. “Dear Federico, you’re
not going to do exams for anything,” (he
wrote laconically). “Persuade your father to leave you in peace to publish your
books, that is what will make you famous … “

“If Mariana
were to be performed, I would win over my father once and for all,” Lorca
predicted. And indeed he was right. The success of Mariana Pineda, when it was performed in Barcelona in June 1927,
combined with the publication of Canciones
also in 1927, and then followed by the extraordinary success of the First Gypsy Ballad Book, published in
1928, marked the literary break-through Lorca was seeking and after that
parental pressure let up. Lorca’s father came to accept his son’s literary
vocation, and the poet was spared further traumas of having to look for a
proper job.

Final note: As with other books published in
his lifetime, Lorca gave all his friends and family copies of The Gypsy Ballad Book with a dedication
inside the front cover. In the copy he gave to his parents, and only in theirs,
he added in brackets after his signature the word “poet”, a telling gesture,
asserting his finally achieved independence as a creative writer.

Ida Vitale – 2016 Winner

The Lorca Prize Posted on Fri, June 09, 2017 18:58:43

The other night I was at the Lorca Centre to
attend the prize-giving ceremony for the City of Granada-Federico García Lorca
International Prize for Poetry, to give it its full title. The winner was a
Uruguayan poet called Ida Vitale, at 93 the oldest award winner yet, a close contemporary
of Mario Benedetti (1920-2009).

Choosing such an old woman might have seemed
like a bit of a risk if it were not for the obvious vitality of the prize-winner.
For the Prize organisers consider it absolutely crucial that the poet selected
for the award be present at the official ceremony. This is because the whole
occasion is set up to promote the city culturally, so when Blanca Varela
(winner in 2006) was too unwell to attend, they decided henceforth to withhold
the quite considerable prize money in the case of the winner not coming to
collect it. Indeed, in 2011, the Cuban poet Fina García Marruz, aged 88 at the
time, was also not well enough to attend, so I wonder if she had to forgo the
cash prize? Sounds a bit hard, doesn’t it?

average age of the prize-winning poets is now well over 80. This is because the
Lorca Prize is expressly awarded in recognition of a poet’s entire life’s work.
The idea is that the occasion will be of mutual benefit to both city and poet,
in that on the one hand the poet’s established reputation is further enhanced
by being associated with the city that was home to Andalusia’s greatest twentieth
century poet (?), while the city is allowed to bask for a while in the fame and
glory of that particular year’s prize-winner.

The City of Granada-Federico García Lorca
International Prize for Poetry is a subject I have blogged on on a number of
occasions previously, though not since September 2015. I have commented
primarily on the advanced age of the award winners and secondly on the
delicately maintained balance between Spanish and Latin American poets. Indeed,
if we count Tomas Segovia as half Mexican and half Spanish (he was born in
Valencia), six-and-a-half of the winners have been from the Iberian peninsula
and six-and-a-half from America.

Another common denominator is winning the Reina
Sofia before or after the Lorca. I think nine of the thirteen Lorcas have won
both. While not wanting to talk of a ‘copycat’ syndrome, there is no doubt that
the two prizes are fishing in the same waters.

lastly, before Ida Vitale, only three of the winners had been lady poets. Member
of council for culture Rosa Aguilar made use of her place on the podium to
criticise this fact. The award going to Vitale is recognition of the value of
poetry made by women, something said counsellor is keen to promote.

While not denying the great contribution made
by these prestigious winners of a prestigious prize, I have to express some
regret that the Lorca Prize is not granted in a rather more adventurous spirit.
Thinking of the struggle it took Lorca to establish himself as a poet and win
economic independence to pursue his chosen vocation, the idea of a Poetry Prize
named after him seems like a good one. Lorca came close at one time to giving
up and knuckling under, tempted to apply for a proper job to please his
exasperated father, who saw no future in his son’s poetic bent and lack of conventional
professional ambition. (See my following post.) A little formal recognition at
the beginning of his literary career in the form of a cash award would have
helped him on his way and relieved him of some years’ anxiety and freed him
from an at times humiliating dependence on his father.

The City of Granada International Poetry
Prize, however, is not that kind of award. Worth 30,000 Euros (reduced from
50,000 when times got hard and money short during the Crisis), the city is not
interested in taking risks and seeks its winners exclusively among well
established poets who in return for the dosh can lend the city something of
their achieved acclaim and glory.