‘Letter in January, with a line from Federico Garcia Lorca’ by Luisa A. Igloria describes fleeting moments from life through natural imagery.
In the first lines of the poem, the speaker begins by describing how she’s taken notice of the changes of light as the winter ends. She references a line from Federico Garcia Lorca’s poem ‘Gacela of Unforseen Love’. This leads her to speak on an “exile’s heart” and the connected desire to move from place to place, because of a feeling that one doesn’t belong anywhere. The poem concludes with another series of images that depict her everyday life while alluding to a desire to change, and yet at the same time, remain.
Poetic Techniques in Letter in January, with a line from Federico Garcia Lorca
‘Letter in January, with a line from Federico Garcia Lorca’ by Luisa A. Igloria is a four stanza poem separated into sets of six lines, known as sestets. These lines do not follow a specific rhyme scheme but there are a few moments of half-rhyme. These are seen through the repetition of assonance or consonance. This means that either a vowel or consonant sound is reused within one line or multiple lines of verse. For example, “rooms” and “roam” in the third stanza.
Alliteration is another technique Igloria makes use of. It occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. For example, “fall” and “fast” in the first stanza as well as “light,” “little” and “longer”.
Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. This occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. It forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. There are a few examples in ‘Letter in January, with a line from Federico Garcia Lorca,’ such as the transition between lines one and two of the first stanza and every transition between the individual stanzas.
You can read the full poem on Igloria’s literary blog.
Analysis of Letter in January, with a line from Federico Garcia Lorca
Every day the light stays
a little longer, and night
are open, I can read till nearly suppertime:
I sought in my heart to give you
In the first stanza of ‘Letter in January, with a line from Federico Garcia Lorca,’ the speaker begins by describing how the light in January (the month in which these lines were written) is changing. The light “stays / a little longer” every day. Meaning, the sun sets later and later as the weeks move closer to summer. Necessarily, the “night / does not fall so hard, so fast,” she adds in the next line. This simple, yet impactful start to the poem/letter draws a reader in, perhaps reminding them of the years they too noticed this change in the length of day/night.
The speaker moves on to another simple, yet poignant image. She tells the intended recipient of the letter that because the light is lasting longer, she can “read till nearly suppertime” by the upstairs window. The familiarity with which she addresses this person and her offhand descriptions of the rooms in her house make it clear that the letter’s recipient is familiar with these locations. They would know exactly where she’s talking about.
The sixth line of the stanza is enjambed and a reader is forced to move down to the second stanza in order to find out which line she’s reading at that moment. Additionally, there is an interesting juxtaposition between the simplicity and the relative unimportance of the first five lines and the sixth. Suddenly, she moves on to a topic that is more emotional and stems from another literary source.
the ivory letters that say “siempre,”
“siempre,” “siempre:” garden of my agony—
of the elusive body or the heat of another clime?
Here, how quiet it is on our street: the men
The first line of the second stanza provides the reader with the conclusion to the last line of the first stanza. She was reading a line from the poem ‘Gacela of Unforseen Love’ by Federico García Lorca. The line reads “I sought in my heart to give you / the ivory letters that say “siempre,” / “siempre,” ”siempre:” garden of my agony—”. This moving line is from a remarkable poem by the Spanish writer. It gives the reader some insight into what the speaker is interested in and where her mind is as she sits at her home.
Through a very personal exclamation, known as an apostrophe, Igloria addresses Federico directly. She speaks on the state of an “exile’s heart” and how she interprets what it means to feel like an exile. It isn’t entirely clear if she sees herself in this description, Lorca or the intended reader. Through the next lines, she describes how one might feel if they had an exile’s heart. They would want to spend their days searching and finding and discovering other’s bodies and different “climes”. One’s own transitory disposition will always seek out new experiences.
The final line of the stanza, and the next, speak on the simplicity of the world the speaker is situated in. As well as how it contrasts, but is a lot related to, that of an “exile’s heart”.
who clip the grass and trim the hedges
will not return until winter is over,
behind locked doors. Should I hear chimes
from bell towers, their music is mere
The third stanza is quite lyrical as Igloria moves through the landscape around her speaker. She notes the “the men / who clip the grass and trim the hedges”. They live simple lives, taking care of simple homes in which people, like the speaker, reside. In these lines, she also references the seasons again. How winter is ending now, and once it does, the men will return.
The speaker sets up a few other contrasts as she describes dogs, but ones that do not “roam the streets and howl”. Rather, unlike the exile, they are “muffled” inside the “living rooms / behind locked doors”.
She mentions the “chimes / from the bell towers” in the fifth line. But, rather than go into detail about them, she notes how she doesn’t always hear them.
adornment to the day. Pigeons and gulls
inspect the trash bins in the alleyway.
sidewalks with their thin virgules, some strands
in puddles left after the last hard rain.
Throughout the fourth stanza of ‘Letter in January, with a line from Federico Garcia Lorca’ she provides the reader with more details about the setting. There are scenes that appear mundane, including birds picking through trashcans in the alley. As she describes them though, the imagery becomes more beautiful. Igloria uses the phrase “color of indeterminacy” to describe the colours that adorn their wings. It is necessary to relate the word “indeterminacy” (which is a physical reference to the shifting, shining colour) to an exile’s inability to choose one place to reside.
The last three lines describe another very simple scene, beautifully. There are “Pine needles,” which have fallen from pine trees, on the sidewalk that appear as “virgules” or slashes. Some, she adds, are submerged in “puddles left after the last hard rain”.
Each of these images is important for the larger themes of the poem. The pine needles remain, despite the “hard rain”. While the birds, as symbols of an exile “flee” as soon as they’re startled.