Book Review: Book Of Poems (Selection)

Book Of Poems (Selection), by Federico Garcia Lorca

Having read a fair amount of the writing of the poet in both poetry and drama, I have pondered the author’s characteristic thoughts and musings, and wondered why it is that a poet like this one ended up being gunned down by Franco’s Nationalists.  To be sure, the author’s political stand in favor of the Republic and his homosexuality were not points in his favor in Franco’s regime, but one wonders if there was more to it than that, since at least one of his former lovers was a committed Fascist and managed to be quite successful in Franco’s regime, despite his predilections.  This selected book of poetry is neither the most popular of the author’s works nor the best, but it is a solid work of poetry that reflects Lorca’s characteristic gloomy musings.  If you are familiar with the themes of Lorca’s writings, and with his melancholy nature and his history of failed romances and frustrated attempts at intimacy, then there is certainly much here that you will recognize as being characteristic of the poet’s work.  These are, notably, poems more about longing and sadness then they are about promiscuous sexuality, and they represent someone who was a bit too insecure about being so chaste, a common problem then as now.

This poem consists of about 150 pages or so and is a bilingual edition with the left side in Spanish and the right side in English.  As a result, this book is not quite as long as one would expect from its size alone given its diglot nature.  Some of these poems are quite charming in their reflections, including “The Encounters of a Venturesome Snail,” which is a masterpiece of a beast fable, and other poems are nearly as good, including “There Are Souls Which Have…” and the fantastic “The Shadow Of My Soul.”  Again, these poems are pretty gloomy, and there are certainly concepts and meditations that get repeated over and over again.  The author reflected gloomily on the subject of death, which appears over and over again in these poems, and he also muses on depression and on the darkness of his soul, and even at one time he appears to celebrate his alliance with Satan in one of the darker poems in this collection, “Prologue,” along with a similar reference in “The Sea,” but while these definitely mar the collection, they also demonstrate at least a refreshing honesty.  At least the poet was aware of which side he was on as a result of his moral corruption.

And yet there is something contemporary in this.  How typical is it to reject God’s ways and then blame Him for the sorrow one feels about it?  Certainly a great deal of that goes on nowadays and accounts for a large part of the hostility felt by some against God and His ways, because they would wish to live happily while living in opposition to His laws, and feel that their lack of happiness in sin is somehow unjust.  Yet the poet himself was a man who did not need any sort of active divine judgment to feel great sorrow about his loneliness, and his intense musing upon chastity suggests that he was a timid soul when it came to seeking intimacy, and that for various reasons–they may not be known at this point but they can surely be guessed–he lacked the sort of aggressiveness that was expected of macho Spaniards of his age and our own.  And like many a timid soul he bemoaned his lack of sexual experience and his frustration with forming relationships and longed for a better world while feeling himself ill-suited for the world in which he happened to be.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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