Robert Eric Shoemaker translates Federico García Lorca

from The Lorca Book

Hid himself in letters

Stand up and become human, he said

I’m laid down in letters

He wanted an audience of sex and death

An orgy laid down in letters

He dragged danger like daggers clatter across steel sheets

His danger covered the stage in letters

Absurd, his shadow a flitting pose of blood,

He hid himself in death.

There was danger in his sheets,

Two bullets in his bu[m]hole (sic.)

For being queer, it was said.

He lay down in a letterless grave;

Buried outside of letters, his shadow flitting dangerous.

The letters just didn’t become human

His audience a thin mask of letters

Jets of blood absurd jets of confetti

Four horsemen no four men in suits

He wanted an audience of sex and death

I’m laying him in letters

When we cry for jets of blood

Instead of death in cubicles and jail cells

The IRS and the FBI

Hear me hear our shadows flitting

The letters don’t work

He broke bread like Jesus bleeding in childhood

saying his prayers listening like someone was listening

Asking for his jet of blood 

Proof of living (IRS letter box)

Is he listening to me now?

Letters never work

We want real REAL lemons 





Jets of death

Solid living lemons

I can lay down with

Because you touched me 

Because I am grabbable gravable buryable

This is evidence

A real body in letters 

(Or maybe these letters

(Look look the letters

Are failing


The Silent boy

    The little boy looks for his voice. 
    (The King of the Crickets had it.) 
               In a droplet of water, 
   The little boy looked for his voice. 

          I don’t want it for speaking. 
   With her, I will myself make a ring 
             That will carry my silence 
             On your tiny little finger. 

        Far away, the voice is caught 
        Putting on a cricket’s garb.   

first and mutely 
mute sing spring 
of grasshoppers’ bodies 
first before the mutation 
               loud bodies corpseing 
before the first corporeal 
corpse of grasshoppers sing 

The corpus

body of mutated boys 

sings first 

grasshoppers’ king 


The mute boy’s 









   the first corporeal mutation, 

the body of loud bodies sings: 
first king of grasshoppers’ bodies, 
loud corpus of grasshoppers sing.  
Mutely, boys before the first corpus, 
the body of grasshoppers sing. 
Mutation before the first king, 
the corpse of grasshoppers sing. 

Before mutation, the body feeds mutely
the grasshopper wings, 
so he may sing 
through the corpus of 
grasshopper kings 
before the first mutation
the body feeds the boy
the mute bodice, king
first boy sing
(the king of crickets had it)
el primer hombre
la pintura de las alas
comiendo el muchacho
cuerpo en cuerpo,
rey en el rey

Translator’s Note:

I’ve been translating Lorca’s work for over 10 years, and I have recently begun an experimental project channeling the poet himself. Channeling is a form of translation, and over the course of becoming a “Lorca translator,” which I call myself rather than a “Spanish translator,” I’ve come to think of these praxes as the same. In translation and in channeling, I am listening. Lorca is a queer ancestor, and so I try to listen to his work and divine my own place in relation to it, which means placing myself and my text. Just as with translation, using channeling results in mistakes and misreadings which, I think, can be strong interpretations all the same. 

My project of mistranslating Lorca by channeling is under the working title “The Lorca Book” in homage to Robert Duncan’s H.D. Book. Both are in direct communication with forebears who share formal praxes and identities with the author-medium. Through ritual and invocation, Lorca became a sounding board and a mask for my author self, and throughout the book, we converse in the margins—which I think is what any translation is formed from, whether the translator chooses to hide the conversation or not.


Federico García Lorca (1898–1936) was a Spanish poet and playwright who, in a career that spanned just 19 years, engaged and revitalized Spanish poetry and theatre by fusing tradition with modernism. Lorca’s most well-known works include the poetry collection Poeta en Nueva York (Poet in New York) and the “rural dramas”* Bodas de sangre (Blood Wedding), Yerma (Barrens), and La casa de Bernarda Alba (Bernarda Alba and her House). He was executed by a Spanish nationalist firing squad in the first months of the Spanish Civil War. Photo: Federico García Lorca at Columbia University, 1929. Courtesy of the Fundación Federico García Lorca.
*English titles are translated by Shoemaker.

Robert Eric Shoemaker is a poet and interdisciplinary artist. Eric is the author of Ca’Venezia(2021, Partial Press), We Knew No Mortality(2018, Acta Publications), and 30 Days Dry(2015, Thought Collection Publishing). His poetry, translations, and essays have been published in Rattle, Jacket2, Signs and Society, Asymptote, Entropy, Gender Forum, Exchanges, and others. Eric earned a PhD from the University of Louisville and an MFA from Naropa University. He is the digital archive editor at the Poetry Foundation. Photo by Sally Blood.