In June 1929, at a time when young writers and painters dreamed of living in Paris, Federico García Lorca (1898–1936), Spain’s greatest modern poet and playwright, broke boldly with tradition and sailed for New York. His nine months here, followed by three months in Havana, changed his vision of poetry, the theater, and the social role of the artist.

Lorca came to New York to study English but devoted himself instead to writing Poet in New York, a howl of protest against racial bigotry, mindless consumption, and the adoration of technology. “What we call civilization, he called slime and wire,” the critic V. S. Pritchett once wrote. But Lorca’s book reaches beyond New York—“this maddening, boisterous Babel”—into the depths of the psyche, in a search for wholeness and redemption.

In 1936, the poet left the manuscript of Poet in New York on the desk of his Madrid publisher with a note saying he would be “back tomorrow,” probably to discuss final details. He never returned. Weeks later, at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, he was brutally murdered by fascist elements in Granada, his body thrown into an unmarked mass grave. The book was published posthumously in 1940, but the manuscript mysteriously disappeared, lost to scholars for decades. The Fundación Federico García Lorca in Madrid and The New York Public Library exhibit it now for the first time, together with drawings, photographs, letters, and mementos—traces of a Poet in New York . . . and of New York in a poet.

Related New York Public Library programs: Lectures from the Allen Room and the Wertheim Study July 9, July 10, July 11, 1:15–2:30; and LIVE from NYPL, June 4. 

Related events under the auspices of the city-wide Lorca in NY celebration will be offered April 5–July 21.

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