Miguel Hernández: Spain’s Civil War Poet

Español: Centro Cultural Miguel Hernández, ant...

Español: Centro Cultural Miguel Hernández, antigua Caja de Ahorros de Monserrate, en Orihuela. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The turbulent times of the Spanish Civil War produced many great works, including the poems of Miguel Hernández.

Miguel Hernández is possibly one of Spain’s best known poets of modern times, especially due to his activities and tragic death during the Spanish Civil War. He came from the city of Orihuela, in the province of Alicante, an old and beautiful city. However, his family was poor and he had little education until the priest of his local church took him under his wing and taught him to read and enjoy both the classic Spanish authors such as Miguel Cervantes, who wrote the most iconic Spanish novel of all time Don Quixote, and the more modern writers working in Spain at that time.

He wanted to establish a literary career so at the tender age of 21 headed for the capital Madrid to seek his fortune. Sadly, his money ran out quickly and he was forced to return home but he was not discouraged and tried several times over the next two years to get himself and his work noticed in Madrid. He was jubilant when his first book was published when he was 23 and his first play came out the next year.

Miguel Hernández and Friends

In 1934, during already turbulent times, he returned to Madrid and became friendly with now famous writers such as Pablo Neruda, Garcia Lorca and Luis Cernuda. Miguel Hernández helped Neruda in the publishing of a journal called Caballo Verde de Poesia (Poetry’s Green Knight) which became a popular and influential source for writers and readers. Around 1936, he became more interested in the Republican cause, no doubt due to the influence of his writer friends at that time, publishing El Rayo Que No Cesa (Unceasing Lightning). He had been in love with Josefina Manresa since they were children and they decided to get married in 1937. Sadly, the son they had, Manuel Román died just a year after his birth, an event that had a deep and lasting impact on Hernández and his work.

Spanish Civil War

By now, the Spanish Civil War, which started in 1936, was reaching its worst moments and Miguel Hernández joined the Republican army, those who were fighting against the forces of General Franco. The poetry that he wrote around this time focuses on the horror of war, with poems such as “Viento del Pueblo” (1937) and “El Hombre Acecha” (1938) being particular examples.

In 1939, the Republican resistance began to collapse and Hernández tried to escape to Portugal. However, he was captured by the Guardia Civil, an elite Para-military police force, and taken to Madrid where he was thrown into prison. Being imprisoned did not stop him from writing, though. He still had friends in high places and was thus able to return briefly to his home town of Orihuela before being arrested again. Tragically, the conditions in the prisons led to him contracting the lung disease tuberculosis and being moved from prison to prison over the next three years only made his health worse.

However, it was during this time of great hardship that he produced what poetry experts consider to be his best work such as “Todo Era Azul” (Everything is Blue) and “Eterna Sombra” (Eternal Shadow) from which comes this poignant verse:

Soy una abierta ventana que escucha,
por donde ver tenebrosa la vida.
Pero hay un rayo de sol en la lucha
que siempre deja la sombra vencida.

(I am an open window that listens
From where life can be seen as frightening
But there is a ray of sunlight in the battle
That always defeats the shadow)

Death of Miguel Hernández

He was still in prison, away from his family and friends, when he died on March 28, 1942 at just 31 years of age. Just before his death, he was able to write one more short poem, said to be written on the wall beside his bed in prison, “Farewell, brothers, comrades, friends: Give my goodbyes to the sun and the wheat fields.”

The Miguel Hernández website is dedicated to the poet, and his old home in Orihuela has been transformed into a museum where items he used can be seen and the small garden he sat in can also be visited.


Easter message from Kyle Colona

Hurricane Sandy 2012

Hurricane Sandy 2012 (Photo credit: charliekwalker)

Easter message from Kyle Colona

Kyle is a friend who lives on Long Island in the USA. He and his family lost virtually everything in Hurricane Sandy. He is a great poet and writer but surviving that disaster has made his words more powerful. It doesn’t matter what religion you are, or even if you don’t have any religious beliefs, read what he has written about Easter.

Like Scot’s poet, Robert Burns? Then this may tickle your funny bone.

Most often, when I get sent all those ‘hilarious’ emails or FB messages, I either delete them or just glance at them whilst passing. But every so often one makes me laugh out loud and so, in the spirit of Comic Relief day, I share with you a joke sent by a good friend:

Prince Charles is visiting an Edinburgh hospital. He enters a ward full of patients with no obvious sign of injury or illness and greets one. The patient replies:

“Fair fa your honest sonsie face, Great chieftain o the puddin race, Aboon them a ye take yer place, Painch, tripe or thairm, As langs my airm.”

HRH is confused, so he just smiles and moves on to the next patient.

The patient responds:
“Some hae meat an canna eat, And some wad eat that want it, But we hae meat an we can eat, So let the Lord be thankit.”

Even more confused, the Prince moves on to the next patient, who immediately begins to chant:
“Wee sleekit, cowerin, timrous beasty, O the panic in thy breasty, Thou needna start awa sae hastie, Wi bickering brattle.”

Now seriously troubled, Charles turns to the accompanying doctor and asks, “Is this a psychiatric ward?”

“No,” replies the doctor, “This is the serious Burns unit.”

Life and Tragic Death of Federico García Lorca

Closeup cutout from Image:Garcialorca madrid l...

Closeup cutout from Image:Garcialorca madrid lou.jpgCategory: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of Spain’s most famous poets, Federico García Lorca’s life and illustrious career was cut short by the Spanish Civil War

Young Lorca

Lorca was born in the city of Granada in 1898 and went on to read law at the university. He was also a great musician, becoming expert in both guitar and piano. He moved to Madrid and became part of the “Generation 1927” movement which included such famous names as Pablo Neruda and Salvador Dali. He was homosexual and his advances to Dali were rejected, causing him much pain but he found love with others.

His first collection of poems was published in 1921, but he also became famous for his music, using the inspiration of the traditional folk and gypsy music of his native Andalucía. He also wrote plays.

He travelled to New York for a year in 1929-1930 but found the cultural difference and his inability to speak English so hard that he contemplated suicide. He travelled on to Havana, Cuba arriving back in Spain in 1931.

Back to Spain

His arrival back in Spain coincided with the start of what was to eventually become the Spanish Civil War. However, he continued to write poetry and produce plays much to the delight of his audiences.

Lorca travelled back to his home city of Granada just three days before the war broke out in July 1936. He knew that the extreme right wing movement headed by General Franco would see him as a left wing liberal. His brother in law, at the time Mayor of Granada, was shot on 18 August 1936 and Lorca was arrested soon afterwards.

Shot to Death

Exactly what happened next is unclear. He was never seen again and it is generally thought that he was taken out into the countryside near Granada and shot. Various historians have written theses on where, how and why his death took place. One such book is “Las trece últimas horas en la vida de García Lorca,” ( The last 13 hours in the life of García Lorca) written by the Spanish investigator, Miguel Caballero, who interviewed many people who were involved with the arrest of the poet, the family of the poet and others. He believes that he has identified those who were in the party who shot the poet. He also believes that three other people were shot at the same time and are buried in the same grave. The grave has, to date, not been found.

Search for the Grave

In recent years, Spain has tried to come to terms with the Civil War that tore families and the country apart. A new law has been put in place to allow suspected burial sites to be opened by trained archaeologists and for any bodies found to be identified and returned to their families. In a recent interview on Spanish television Miguel Caballero took the reporter to the spot where he believes the poet lies but excavations in that area have not found any human remains.

Foundation Set Up By Family

One of Spain’s greatest poets continues to lie in an unmarked grave, seventy seven years after his death. Despite the many monuments and memorials that have been placed in various parts of Spain, his family will not rest until his body is found and he can be buried with decency. His sister, Isabel Garcia Lorca and other members of the family have set up a Foundation to ensure that the work of the great poet, playwright and musician can be read and enjoyed by everyone. The family has donated all their documents etc related to the poet to the Foundation.

“I know there is no straight road
No straight road in this world
Only a giant labyrinth
Of intersecting crossroads”
― Federico García Lorca