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  • The Poetics of Apocalypse: Federico García Lorca's 'Poet in New York'
  • Maria T. Pao (bio)
Martha J. Nandorfy . The Poetics of Apocalypse: Federico García Lorca's 'Poet in New York'Bucknell University Press 2003. 318. US $60.00

In The Poetics of Apocalypse: Federico García Lorca's 'Poet in New York,' Martha J. Nandorfy provides a new spin on some of the Spanish writer's most daunting poetry. The posthumous collection reveals a poetic self in crisis, catalysed by a 1929 visit to a city Lorca found corrupt and dehumanizing. But where some readers consider their register unremittingly bleak, Nandorfy associates Lorca's poems with apocalyptic discourse, a move that attenuates the apparent hopelessness of titles like 'Landscape of a Vomiting Multitude,' 'Ruin,' and 'Dance of Death.' Along with an index and bibliography, the book includes drawings by Lorca and depictions of biblical apocalypse.

Nandorfy sees Poet in New York as an invitation to death and silence mediated by Lorca's conception of the duende, a dark spirit (not mentioned anywhere in Poet in New York) who calls the poet to creation, while tempting him to the brink of sanity and existence. In this iteration, however, death and silence do not evoke nothingness; rather, disintegration, in its destruction of form, represents the long-desired fusion with the other and, indeed, with everything in the universe. Consumed in a 'telluric banquet,' the body returns to its original (and future) state, where [End Page 333] 'panmaterialism' erases individual identities in the ultimate bonding process. A 'resonant silence' survives, liberated from Logos, the symbolic order, and reason, yet creative in free association and glossolalia.

The study consists of five chapters bookended by an introduction and afterword. The first addresses the poet-seer's repudiation of a city whose alienated inhabitants have lost their connection to the earth and to each other. Chapter 2 examines how the New York poems install a mythic consciousness involving conflation of time and space and what Nandorfy, following Anton Ehrenzweig, calls 'dedifferentiation,' where 'the most antithetical realities, expressed in surrealistic images, are reconciled and understood.' The third chapter discusses apostrophe as the principal trope of apocalyptic poetics in its ability to question the limits between self and other and to evidence the poet's self-implication as a member of the dominant social group he decries. In chapter 4 the speaker offers himself as a sacrificial victim to atone for his class's wrongdoings; meanwhile, enigmatic images and contradiction enact the 'unsayableness' of silence. Chapter 5 turns to the 'ultimate breaking up of language on the other side of apocalypse' - the non-verbal expressions of music and dance in the volume's final poems and images of negated identity in Lorquian drawings recalling those of Poet in New York .

Nandorfy's argument is intriguing, but wobbles without a systematic overview of apocalyptic literature as a mode. The absence of specification up front regarding the basic make-up of the source material - biblical and non-biblical - results in scattered, off-hand comments such as, 'The order not to sleep is a traditional feature of apocalyptic discourse' and 'temporal indeterminacy ... is also an essential feature of apocalyptic.' More significant, the discussion vacillates on which elements are integral to the discourse and which optional. Is apocalypse predicated on a deity punishing the guilty and rewarding the righteous (or might it dispense with the divine and imply, as Poet in New York does, that salvation lies in union with nature)? Can the impassive force of 'matter unleashed' replace a purposeful God (or gods)? Is exclusionary rhetoric a sine qua non of apocalyptic, which 'absolutizes difference into two oppositional camps' (or can its language be indeterminate and convey apocalypse as the 'synchronic fusion of all')? Does apocalypse still apply when dissolution is not a means to an end (say, the promise of eternal life) but an end in itself ('the undifferentiated unity of all forms')?

Despite her theistic models (the Bible's Revelation, Egyptian and classical myth), Nandorfy concludes, 'While Lorca avails himself of apocalyptic discourse, intertextual references in Poet in New York are not limited to the last book of the Judeo-Christian Bible or even...


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pp. 333-335
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