I love Lorca.
I first found him through Linklater’s amazing Waking Life, where those haunting words rang like a clarion.
‘The living iguanas will bite those who do not dream…’
I had to know more, and soon found Bly‘s beautiful transation of the poem ‘The City that does not sleep’ (Brooklyn Bridge Nocturne) when the Grenada native had taken a trip to New York and been transported by its energy. Of course Lorca would write one of his most beautiful, profound and otherly-entwined poems on a bridge, as he says within it.
‘There is a boy who cries because he has not heard of the invention of the bridge’
And, in addition on this slightly hauntological of aspects, it is also where Lorca tells us that ‘no one sleeps‘ and that
‘…the man who, wanders out with his spirit broken, will meet on the street corner, the unbelievable alligator, waiting patiently beneath the tender protest of the stars…’
When Lorca went to Argentina in 1934 (two years before he was killed by fascists), he was greeted at the port by tens of thousands of fans, his every move was reported and he was quoted at regular junctures in newspapers and on the radio. It is curious, to see this adoration and level of attention, for a dreamer of the poet kind.
It seems now this role has been subsumed into the modicon of the pop/rock singer. The stratum of celebrity has ejected the poet-word-dreamer and replaced it with something which could have the power of an early Bob Dylan (‘And the ancient empty street’s too dead for dreaming‘), but which has more readily come to mean moulded balladeers and musicians selling us the feeling of our dreams of love and the resonance of heartbreak. like a Philip K Dick nightmare where we are sold the pre-fab structures for our own lighting up and burning out through Love .
Corporitised ‘vision’ tends to sell something that is already inflected with its question of ‘what do people want?’ (answer; more of the same). There is already the generalised interlocution, from these spaces, generally things are not made because they must be, because a shape in the cosmos of being will not change if a song is not written… but because it is the product of oft miniscule openness to creativity, pushed by the mechanism of the necessity of the mechanism.
After writing the above, almost as if by timely, dreamy rebuttal to this state of affairs – I watched the second film Endless Poetry- of Jodorowsky’s amazing auto bio-pic sequence that started with 2013’s the Dance of Reality. It resounds powerfully to see this setting of Chile in the 40’s and 50’s where poetry becomes Jodorowsky’s calling and where we see this poetry (which has already quoted Lorca as a door to it within the story) given a power of appreciation and space and love by others (‘Your rebellious act is worthy of a poet‘).
It’s a stunningly effective summoning of poetry into the atmosphere as a form that itself summons hidden aspects of existence and reality; a suffused and charged poetics-of-the-moment. The film uses poetic mode as often short, lambent aphoristics which re-connect us with the simple and direct power of words given away in gestures of configuration that breathe sudden light and life into a space made previously dormant or of invisible aspect to our perception. In this film and through this writing of Jodorowsky (and the other poets) it becomes possible to see this poetry as akin to a breath of seeing. As in one scene, Jodorowsky is told and responds:
‘You are a poet; improvise…’
‘the being within me is consumed, casting flames from the dream‘.
In another scene Jodorowsky of now describes to his younger self how he was pulled out of an abyss by a drunk whom ‘wine had made a prophet’ when he told him not to worry and that ‘a naked virgin will illuminate your path with a blazing butterfly‘ – a returning motif which at one point he understands to mean poetry itself.
‘I do not fear my shadow, my aim is to return to what I have always been.’
I had admired and loved Jodorowsky’s work for so many years and yet had not known that he had found his form, had found his flight through being a poet and yet now it seemed so clear, the lucidity of his access to the abstract had taken this form of word-smith initially, as a gateway to the wider space of producing stories and works of defining breadth and daring resolution. All founded on a connection of rare proximity to the jeweled doorway-sea of the abstract. As at the beautiful conclusion to the Dance of Reality:
‘I soar away from the past,
Land in the body present,
Bear the painful burden of years,
Yet in the heart keep the child,
As the bread of life,
As a white canary,
As a worthy diamond,
As a lucidity without walls,
Wide open doors and windows,
Through which blows the wind,
Only the wind,
Just the wind.’
It was while he was in Argentina that Garica Lorca, in one of his lectures, delivered his ‘Play and theory of the Duende‘ – which sought to understand creativity and great art as having three major tenets; a connection with the soil of the land, a vivid awareness of death and confirmation of the limits of reason.
One of the things that always struck me about Lorca was the ferocious courage of his words. He was homosexual, he belonged to a committed collectivism that enshrined an artistic exploration of reality and life and whose resonance with love and compassion shone especially through a seeing of women and animals. The immense courage of his words and deeds – the intent that they emerged from were also key to his death, killed by local firing squad during Franco’s escalations of brutality in 1936, he was 38 years of age.
He was firmly a man of the earth of Granada, it ran through him – he was involved for a while with Dali, whom he loved, but did not have a lasting relationship with. He championed the traditional and indigenous forms of music of the region and the country (organising the first flamenco song contest in Spain along with his collaborator Manuel de Falla).
In 1932 (and already being a famous poet and playwright) Lorca took his Student theatre troup La Barraca on the road and went around the towns and cities of Spain performing radical and new versions of classic pieces.
A first attempt to read Lorca’s life story came with Ian Gibson’s biography, with which I had so much difficulty enjoying the writing that I made little progress. Then I was fortunate to be given a gift of Leslie Stainton’s beautifully rendered biography ‘A dream of life‘. it was interesting that when in Argentina, Lorca took an immediate (and mutual) dislike to Borges (an exemplary writer), whose own later response to the rise of the fascists in his land was apparently to become the welcome pet, old and blind on stage, lauding his masters. Comparison can be unhelpful though.
Lorca’s words have continued shining poised like refracted, preserved, junketted gateways of the cosmicity of seeing… finding themselves thrown through the abstract, down a channel of momentary understanding, this at least was how I always found him, at his best – as with Brooklyn Bridge.
So it was some weird surprise recently that I came across, on wishing to check a minor thought or detail in the poem, a couple of lines that I had failed to remember.
‘We fall down the stairs, so that we may eat the moist earth,
or we climb to the knife edge of the snow, with the voices of the dead dahlias’
I was in a place where reading those things from a poet I have always found touching and helpful was transformational, feeling as I did, those words reach into my experiences and place themselves gently there as gateways of helpful further understanding.
Its interesting also, how Lorca returns.
My friend sent me a message recently containing a few lines which I had thought quickly were from Dylan Thomas, only to realise when coming across them elsewhere (another coincidence) that they were from Lorca’s poem ‘Sleepwalking Romance‘
‘Green, how I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship out on the sea
and the horse on the mountain…’
Resonating with Thomas:
‘The force that through the green fuse drives the flower, drives my green age…’
For these and more (and less), this is why I love Lorca.
While as Timothy Levitch, the narrator guide in that moment of Waking Life says…
‘…As one realises that one is a dream figure in another person’s dream, that is self awareness…’
City That Does Not Sleep
In the sky there is nobody asleep. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
The creatures of the moon sniff and prowl about their cabins.
The living iguanas will come and bite the men who do not dream,
and the man who rushes out with his spirit broken will meet on the
the unbelievable alligator quiet beneath the tender protest of the
Nobody is asleep on earth. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
In a graveyard far off there is a corpse
who has moaned for three years
because of a dry countryside on his knee;
and that boy they buried this morning cried so much
it was necessary to call out the dogs to keep him quiet.
Life is not a dream. Careful! Careful! Careful!
We fall down the stairs in order to eat the moist earth
or we climb to the knife edge of the snow with the voices of the dead
But forgetfulness does not exist, dreams do not exist;
flesh exists. Kisses tie our mouths
in a thicket of new veins,
and whoever his pain pains will feel that pain forever
and whoever is afraid of death will carry it on his shoulders.
the horses will live in the saloons
and the enraged ants
will throw themselves on the yellow skies that take refuge in the
eyes of cows.
we will watch the preserved butterflies rise from the dead
and still walking through a country of gray sponges and silent boats
we will watch our ring flash and roses spring from our tongue.
Careful! Be careful! Be careful!
The men who still have marks of the claw and the thunderstorm,
and that boy who cries because he has never heard of the invention
of the bridge,
or that dead man who possesses now only his head and a shoe,
we must carry them to the wall where the iguanas and the snakes
where the bear’s teeth are waiting,
where the mummified hand of the boy is waiting,
and the hair of the camel stands on end with a violent blue shudder.
Nobody is sleeping in the sky. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is sleeping.
If someone does close his eyes,
a whip, boys, a whip!
Let there be a landscape of open eyes
and bitter wounds on fire.
No one is sleeping in this world. No one, no one.
I have said it before.
No one is sleeping.
But if someone grows too much moss on his temples during the
open the stage trapdoors so he can see in the moonlight
the lying goblets, and the poison, and the skull of the theaters.
‘…Things have been tough lately for dreamers… They say dreaming’s dead and no one does it anymore… Its not dead, its just its been forgotten… Removed from our language… Nobody teaches it so no one knows it exists… The dreamers banished to obscurity… I’m trying to change all that and I hope you are too… By dreaming everyday… Dreaming with our hands and dreaming with our minds… Our Planet is facing the greatest problems it’s ever faced, ever… So whatever you do, don’t be bored… This is absolutely the most exciting time we could have possibly hoped to be alive… Things are just starting…’
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