Pablo Neruda writes in his ,,Memoirs”:
,,Poetry is an act of peace.
Peace goes into the making of a poet as flour goes into the making of bread.
Arsonists, warmongers, wolves hunt down the poet to burn, kill, sink their teeth into him.
A swordsman left Pushkin mortally wounded under the trees in a dark and gloomy park.
The fiery horse of war charged over Petofi’s lifeless body.
Byron died in Greece , fighting against war.
The Spanish fascists started off the war in Spain by assassinating its greatest poet.
But poetry has not died, it has a cat’s nine lives.
They harass it,
they drag it through the streets,
they spit on it
and make it the butt of their jokes,
they try to strangle it,
drive it into exile,
throw it into prison,
pump lead into it,
and it survives every attempt
with a clear face and a smile as bright as grains of rice.”
To remember the fact that Franco’s fascists murdered Spain’s greatest poet:
Political philosopher David Crocker reports that “the statue, at least, is still an emblem of the contested past: “Each day, the Left puts a red kerchief on the neck of the statue, and someone from the Right comes later to take it off.” (1)
Lorca left Madrid three days before the Civil War began in July 1936. He was shot by the Falangists not far from Granada on the 19th of August 1936. At the same time Pablo Neruda was still in Madrid working in the Chilean Embassy in Spain. Neruda about the Civil War in a poem ,,I’ll Explain Some Things”: the poem adresses Lorca, ,,under the ground” and already murdered at that moment:
,,You’ll ask, Where are the lilacs?
And the philosophy dreamy with poppies?
And the rain which kept beating out
Your words, filling them
With water-specks and birds?
I’m going to tell you everything that happened to me.
I lived in a neighborhood
In Madrid with church bells
And clock towers and trees.
From there you could see
The dry face of Castille
Like a sea of leather
My house was called
“The house with the flowers” because around it
Geraniums exploded. It was
A beautiful house
With dogs and kids.
Raúl, do you remember?
Federico, do you still remember
Under the ground?
Do you remember my house with the balconies
Where the June light soaked your mouth with
The taste of flowers?
The market place of Arguelles, my neighborhood
With its statue like a pale inkwell among
The fish stalls.
It was all
Loud voices, salty commerce,
A deep rumble
Of feet and hands filled the streets,
Meters and liters,
The sharp essence of life,
Fish stacked up,
The texture of roofs in the cold sun in which
The weather-vane grows tired.
Fine, crazily carved ivory of potatoes
Lines of tomatoes to the sea.
Then one morning flames
Came out of the ground
Devouring human beings.
From then on fire,
Gunpowder from then on,
From then on blood.
Bandits with airplanes and Moorish troops
Bandits with gold rings and duchesses
Bandits with black monks giving their blessing
Came across the sky to kill children
And through the streets, the blood of children
Ran simply, like children’s blood does.
Jackals that a jackal would reject
Stones that a dry thistle would bite and spit out
Vipers that vipers would hate!
I have seen the blood
Of Spain rise up against you
To drown you in a single wave
Of pride and knives!
Look at my dead home
Look at broken Spain –
But from each dead house
Burning metal shoots out
Instead of flowers.
From every shell-hole in Spain
Spain will rise.
From every dead child a rifle with
Eyes will rise.
From every crime bullets will be born
Which will one day find a place
In your hearts.
You ask “Why doesn’t your poetry
Speak to us of dreams and leaves
Of the great volcanoes of your native land?”
See the blood along the streets
The blood along the streets
Come see the blood
Along the Streets!” (2)
The vision of Lorca on modern, capitalist society is clear. During a visit at New York in 1929:
,,At first glance, the rhythm may be confused with gaiety, but when you look more closely at the mechanism of social life and the painful slavery of both men and machines, you see that it is nothing but a kind of typical, empty anguish that makes even crime and gangs forgivable means of escape.”
,,I was lucky enough to see with my own eyes the recent stock-market crash, where they lost several million dollars, a rabble of dead money that went sliding off into the sea. Never as then, amid suicides, hysteria, and groups of fainting people, have I felt the sensation of real death, death without hope, death that is nothing but rottenness, for the spectacle was terrifying but devoid of greatness… I felt something like a divine urge to bombard that whole canyon of shadow, where ambulances collected suicides whose hands were full of rings.”
The Spanish Civil War for capitalist society was the perfect general repetition, the try out for solving the economical crisis, as described by Lorca above. The 2nd World War the completion. In the 30ies poets had to flee or they were slaughtered; today citypoets are dismissed. The outcome is the same: poetry has to be silenced.
(2) in: Pablo Neruda, ,,Ode to the Book”, translated by Nathaniel Tarn.