Lorca completed Diván del Tamarit in 1934, two years before he was assassinated by fascist forces in Spain. The collection consists of gacelas and casidas, forms he knew from classical Persian and Arabic literature. Lorca understood that Spanish culture and language were deeply rooted in Al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain.
He emphasized the point in “Deep Song,” his lecture on the Spanish folk music out of which came flamenco. “When our songs reach the very heights of pain and love,” he said, “they become the expressive sisters of the magnificent verse of Arabian and Persian poets. The truth is that in the air of Córdoba and Granada, one still finds gestures and lines of remote Arabia, and remembrances of lost cities still arise from the murky palimpsest of the Albaicín.”
In Diván del Tamarit, Lorca’s poetry achieves the truth and passion of deep song. It has what the great flamenco performers and bull fighters of his time called duende. While Lorca’s theory of duende is a uniquely Spanish aesthetic and ethic, it provides useful insight into how and why all true art transcends the commercial and the political, even when it is both. To learn a little about duende, check out my article “The Duende of Lorca’s Diván del Tamarit.”
Diván del Tamarit Selections Sampled in “American Boy”
Notes on Diván del Tamarit
While Lorca may not have known the classical ghazal form, he had direct access to its spirit through his country’s Arabic-Muslim roots.
Al-Andalus, the Muslim Roots of Diván del Tamarit
Al-Andalus, or Islamic Iberia, began in 711 with the Berber invasion of Visigoth territories in Hispania. At its peak, it comprised Portugal and all but the northern quarter of Spain. Contrary to twenty-first century pop culture images of Islamic culture, the Muslim conquest brought forth a golden age to Iberia.
“Moorish Al-Andalus was an advancement in human society,” wrote Puerto Rican poet Victor Hernandez Cruz in the introduction to his recent book of poems, In the Shadow of Al-Andalus. Córdoba, the capital of Al-Andalus, became a great European center of progressive culture and learning where Muslims, Christians and Jews cooperated and lived together in peace. Muslim rule in some form existed in Iberia until 1492, when the sultan of Granada surrendered the Alhambra to Queen Isabella; that same year she sponsored Christopher Columbus’ voyage across the Atlantic.
What Does Diván del Tamarit Mean?
Diván is the Arabic word for a collection of poems. In his preface to his brother’s Selected Poems, Francisco García Lorca explained that “Tamarit is the ancient name of a place near Granada where [the García Lorca] family owned a country house. It was there that most of [Diván del Tamarit] was written.”
Images: “Federico García Lorca: From a mural on a barn in his birthplace, Fuente Vaqueros, Andalucía, Spain.” Photos by Spencer Means. Used under CC BY-SA 2.0 License.
To see the mural and its detail images as well as more photos from Andalucía, Provence and other places in Europe and the U.S., visit Spencer’s Flickr Page.