It’s difficult for me to write about Federico Garcia Lorca because I do not read Spanish and struggle with the reliability of translations. But I keep coming to this poetry again and again, usually through another source, because objects of taste reverberate throughout. In most cases, they are simple foods – fruit, bread – that could so easily be made symbolic, but which are dropped into the verse with their own weight as objects, not overshadowed by figurative meaning. For example, a little bit of Lorca wandered into my dissertation when one of my texts, Mark Doty’s Still Life with Oysters and Lemon, quoted a line from Lorca’s “Gacela of the Dark Death.” The poem narrator says that he wants to “sleep the sleep of apples,” an image that appeals to Doty because apples are simple and direct, refreshing and cleansing. The rest of the poem (and some of Doty’s own meditation) concerns the fearful tumult of death, and the apples seem to possess an innocent, indestructible removal from mortality that has little to do with their value as food or appearances in other stories of apples.
I find this image incredibly appealing as well, but my efforts to incorporate the verse into my own research were frustrated when I saw that some translations favor “sleep the dream of apples,” which respects the two different words Lorca uses for the verb and noun of “sleep,” but somehow reduces the impact of the apples’ solid, guileless sleep.
Anyway, this afternoon I visited an art museum and saw a gallery of Sean Scully etchings that set excerpts of Lorca’s poetry next to mosaic-like squares of soft variated colors. One of these, “Agosto,” struck me in particular:
facing the sunset
peaches and sugar
and the sun inside the evening
like the stone in a fruit.
The ear of corn holds intact
its hard yellow laughter.
dark bread and tasty moon.
The square that accompanied this warm, tangy-sweet poem is surprisingly dark, as you can see from the link. I am not yet sure what to make of that, or the poem itself, which is translated very differently elsewhere.