When acclaimed Canadian writer Brian Dedora travelled to Spain in 2012 to explore “Lorca’s Granada,” he experienced an unexpected transformation that set him on a path of understanding—of the life and work of Federico Garcia Lorca, of the basic elements in common between the Spanish writer’s life and his own, and of the tragic grandeur of Lorca’s death in Granada in 1936.
Lorcation progresses transformationally from prose poem to informal essay, sustained by its three vital metaphors of journey, suitcase, and crossroads. The book, presented as a bilingual English and Spanish edition, follows Dedora’s reading and re-enactment of Lorca’s life and writing, especially the Spanish author’s emergent awareness of his homosexuality, culminating, for Dedora, in a new understanding of Lorca’s call to attend to the living within the enigma of death.
BookThug’s Editorial Intern Shankari Mano sat down with Brian Dedora to discuss Lorcation.
Shankari Mano: Near the beginning of the book, you talk about assumptions and how “the best laid plans” can fall apart, using packing clothes for the weather as a metaphor. What unexpected development surprised you the most in your exploration into Lorca’s life, and how did it change your goals for the book?
Brian Dedora: Firstly, I never set out on a book project with a goal in mind. A psychologist might have a field day when I say I listen to the voices in my head, but this is for a very specific reason: I own a large measure of silence and because of this I’ve learned to listen when those voices break that silence. My process is such that I jot down what arises, usually triggered by some influence that acts as a generator. Many of the books I’ve written are cobbled together from the single line or paragraphs I jot down when that influence, whatever it may be, provokes the voice. In the case of Lorcation the processing, unusually, came very quickly beginning with a kind of statement of theme in Madrid and the kicker coming after a visit to the Lorca family home in Granada, the Huerta de San Vicente and through to the Plaza of the Trinity. The following pieces were written in Toronto, including the essay. The end piece was written in one afternoon in Madrid.
So there is no real plan, that said, the change in the theme I felt most close to, Lorca’s homosexuality, changed or became enlarged when I visited la Vega, the fertile growing plain that stretches out from Granada where Lorca gathers the sustenance of his images and metaphors. That insight, recognition of Lorca’s call to us to heed our spirituality while grounded in Nature’s cycle of life and death, didn’t come to me until after the initial poems, and it, therefore, closes the book. This realization standing in la Vega was the surprise where a transformation in theme and idea took place.
SM: Nature is closely tied to homosexuality and has intoxicating effects on both you and Lorca. However, you reveal that this greenery has gone from being private to public, and is no longer a sanctuary from society and the city. Can you elaborate on this, on how your individual relationships with nature differ and converge as a result of your unique positions in time and space?
BD: As a writer, I become delighted when some of what I write does double duty. For example, the image/metaphor of Lorca’s private garden becoming a public garden works both as his imagination becoming public through his writing and your allusion to his concerns for his private sexual life becoming public. There are a number of places in the book that shoulder this double duty. As for a loss of “greenery” or Nature’s sanctuary, we have to be aware that a divorcement from Nature may allow us to degrade it, that said, any engagement can restore our bond with it. Canada is well-placed in this sanctuary, as we own a connection to our North simply by camping, hiking, or cottaging and being Canadian.
Both Lorca and myself were born into agrarian communities where the fact of our living was closely engaged with the cycles of Nature because our livelihoods were grounded and dependent upon it. As I say in the book, that early awareness of our dependence, our connectedness, never leaves us. A close reading of Lorca’s Poet in New York reveals he brought Andalucía, Spain, to New York City as a way to describe his perceptions. Poet in New York is loaded with these allusions and metaphors. By traveling to New York, Lorca, being of the generation that witnessed the shift from rural to urban, stood shocked in the face of what that meant and how it played out, especially in what he saw as a loss of spirituality in the city’s inhabitants, locked into making their livelihoods within the city environment. We diverge in the fact I was born ten years after his death. Blessedly, my first ten years of growing up, where my child’s play was enacted by climbing hills, swimming in lakes, and making forts in the bush, was before the advent of television. That very fact brought the outside world into our living room; we were introduced to urban life through TV programmes such as “Naked City” “Twilight Zone” and “Front Page Challenge”. That early and continuing connection allowed me to write that part of the book that speaks to “the growth of things” in relation to Lorca and my understanding of his life and work because I knew and experienced it.
SM: You hint at being personally affected, emotionally and psychologically, while retracing the violence and injustice that Lorca faced for being gay. Reading the brutality-laced lines in Lorcation, it disturbed me as well. How did you come to terms with this on your journey, and while researching and writing?
BD: After my ten-day stay in Granada, having participated in Gerry Shikatani’s colloquium, “Lorca’s Granada”, I felt the need to understand more about the Spanish Civil War. When I returned to Toronto, I sought out and found a book by Professor Paul Preston, The Spanish Holocaust, a book that described in horrifying detail the ravages perpetrated by Franco who made the environment in which Lorca, and hundreds of thousands of others, were murdered. Righteous anger is a powerful motivator and it was riding on this emotion that I was able to write those passages in the book that condemn Franco. Pure and simple, I was furious. Most satisfying for me, and I didn’t recognize it until after the book was written, the negative and disparaging whispers in the middle section of the poems end in the positive whisper of gay love that ends the poem “Federico”.
SM: You write about Lorca’s gift being that of love, defined as “deep caring, tenderness, regard” as well as his unwavering confidence in his homosexuality, of being “one who is always one”. Lorca looks to the New World as the place where it might be possible to love openly in this way, but as you mention, if he could see America now he would be extremely disappointed. Looking at contemporary world societies, do you think Lorca’s hope will ever be fulfilled?
BD: If I’ve learned anything, it is the fact that there are heterosexuals and homosexuals, and despite some border-blur this will always be so. Hope lies in an understanding that human nature contains these preferences and that these are an incontrovertible fact. The religious intolerance preached against homosexuality begs the only operative question: If you are satisfied and gratified in your own sexual life, why are you obsessed with another’s sexual life? Evangelicals, both Christian and Islamic, have wrought untold misery for homosexuals whom they accuse of ‘recruitment’, while at the same time proselytizing based on highly narrow and literal interpretations of their ‘sacred texts’, especially when it comes to the nature of sexual relations which they’ve turned into pathologies… you must ask why they do this.
As for societies open to including an understanding of preferences, I think the Western democracies are doing quite well. And as for Lorca’s hope that “love without limits” will be the way of some future I would have to say no, that said, I only wish and hope there is understanding. We can take pride as Canadians for our progressive attitudes, remembering these rights were fought for and we will always have to stand on guard for thee and thou.
SM: If you could travel back in time and have coffee with Lorca before his execution, what would you want to chat about?
BD: Our chat would range over two very different conversations. Firstly, I’d want to discuss the making of his work, his methods of composition, and how he was able to bring together such disparate images and make them whole. When I had the chance to read over some of his manuscripts for Poet in New York, I wanted to see how much revision he’d done, to see how much was ‘white heat’ writing and how much was ‘constructed’ (quite a lot), and I’d like to speak with him about that. Secondly, we’d engage in ‘epintismo’, Lorca’s invented word for gay talk. Two or more gays together will eventually end up in what is referred to as ‘sister talk’. This banter, spiced with lightening-quick repartee, rapier wit, and bellyfuls of laughter, is one of the hallmarks of gay culture and, as far as I know, never heard elsewhere in quite the same way; you have to be a member of the club. Referred to as ‘gay sensibility’ and inherent in ‘camp’, it is a term both understood and yet elusive, while being a strategy of defiance. From what I’ve read of Lorca’s biography, he was an ebullient personality, “a queen of the south”. We’d end our meeting with an ‘abrazzo fuerte’, a strong hug, and I’d tell him I love him and thank him for his gift.
British Columbia-born Brian Dedora is a writer and performance artist whose work has been anthologized and widely published in special and limited editions. His books includeEye Where: A Book of Visuals (2014), A Few Sharp Sticks (2011), A Slice of Voice at the Edge of Hearing (2008), which was shortlisted for the ReLit and George Ryga Awards, With WK in the Workshop (1989), as well as White Light (1987). His latest book is Lorcation (BookThug, 2015). Dedora lives in Toronto, Canada and Granada, Spain.
Shankari Mano is a lover of dogs and books, and currently resides in Scarborough, Ontario. She has a BA in English and Psychology from the University of Toronto. Shankari is an aspiring editor and a student of the Ryerson University Publishing program, as well as BookThug’s Editorial Intern.