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Old 04-25-2005, 07:59 PM
Ann White Ann White is offline
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To explain the mystery and importance of Duende to artistic expression, Lorca tells the story of a great Andalusian singer whose performance leaves a modest audience unimpressed one night in a little tavern in Cadiz. “Here we care nothing about ability, technique, skill. Here we are after something else,” they seem to say, according to Lorca. The songstress then tears at her expensive gown, guzzles a tall glass of burning liquor and begins “to sing with a scorched throat: without voice, without breath or color but with Duende” all to the crowd's raucous approval. Lorca says, “She had to rob herself of skill and security, send away her muse and become helpless, that her Duende might come and deign to fight her hand to hand…”
I had this writing by Terrance Hayes bookmarked (More Theories of the Duende & Teaching the Inexplicable). The concept of duende is totally out of context for me. I don't have anything that I can relate to it.

Hayes calls it the "gypsy cousin" of surrealism. He quotes Bly: “To help us seek the Duende there are neither maps nor discipline. All one knows is that it burns the blood like powdered glass, that it exhausts, that it rejects all the sweet geometry one has learned, that it breaks with all styles…”

Frederico Garcia Lorca, who is attributed with giving "duende" its designation, says, I think ironically: "Very often intellect is poetry's enemy because it is too much given to imitation, because it lifts the poet to a throne of sharp edges and makes him oblivious of the fact that he may suddenly be devoured by ants, or a great arsenic lobster may fall on his head.”

So what is this duende? Can it be shown thru examples? Is it dark? Is it musical? Is it ineluctable? Can there be poetry without it? How does duende fix itself upon words? Is it a learned thing?

Please share.

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Old 04-25-2005, 08:32 PM
thompson thompson is offline
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E-mail me at wthompson25316@troy.edu and I'll tell you what little I know about duende. It's not something you're going to get from Bly.

Bill
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Old 04-25-2005, 10:35 PM
Robert J. Clawson Robert J. Clawson is offline
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You either have it or you don't.

It's better than having pizzazz.

If you can find them, check out some columns of the Boston Globe columnist, George Frazier. He became a kind of cult figure for awarding duende to individual performers who wowed him.

Bob
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Old 04-25-2005, 10:41 PM
Robert J. Clawson Robert J. Clawson is offline
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I wrote Frazier, George, duende into Google search and got this:

1. The ability to attract others through personal magnetism and charm; charisma;
2. Spell, charm, trance, infallibility; a spellbinding spirit; a poetic expression describing the magic essential to certain art forms.
While there is no perfectly accurate English translation of duende, it is a certain quality we all have witnessed. A magnetism, charm and charisma, all rolled into one. The late, great Boston Globe columnist George Frazier became synonymous with duende, for his columns discussing the phenomenon.
"It so difficult to define," Frazier wrote. "Yet when it's there, it is unmistakable, inspiring our awe, quickening our memory… to observe someone or something that has it is to feel icy fingers running down our spine."

By George, he's got it.
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Old 04-25-2005, 10:42 PM
Robert J. Clawson Robert J. Clawson is offline
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Sorry.

[This message has been edited by Robert J. Clawson (edited May 03, 2005).]
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Old 04-26-2005, 05:31 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is online now
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If you have to ask, you'll never understand.

At least that's what Satchmo said when asked what jazz is. What you've quoted above is enough to give you an idea what duende is.

Duende means when the poetry or song is really, really good and you are blown away by how good it is. When you feel such a chill that you can't be warmed, or when the top of your head feels like it's been removed...to mangle the Dickinson quote...is to be in the presence of duende. Add a little flamenco passion, perhaps, and a visceral sense of genuine engagement with the nitty gritty of life and death.

OK, I don't know what duende is. Sorry about that. But Lorca's essay on the subject is wonderful, however much it might leave you uncertain what duende really is.


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Old 04-26-2005, 09:26 AM
Tom Jardine Tom Jardine is offline
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I don't think it means anything but singing from the heart. (writing or painting)

Go to artists first, to begin examples:
Rembrant? No.
Matisse? No.
Van Gogh? Yes. Look at Starry Night and see how he goes straight from what he sees to the heart, and no intellectual bs inbetween.

Picasso? Yes.Picasso said it took him a lifetime to learn to draw like a child. Without pretense, intellect getting in the way.

Andrew Wyeth? Yes, sort of.

There are few other artists this century I can think of who have duende without their art going into conceptualism or 'stylized' pretentiousness.

Singers? Billy Holiday? Yes!
Frank Sinatra? On occasion--usually he sang with the band.
Barbara Striesand? No! She yells.
Snead Oconnor? Yes.
Elvis? Yes.
Madonna? No. She just has energy.

After awhile, patterns begin to show, and one can do this with actors and opera singers.

Poets? Far too many are

Old nibbler scribblers stab their blotter
and cannot let an honest image be
a fluffy feather on glassy water.

When free of ego and pretensions I think anyone can read a poet quickly and decide if there is duende there. Take two or three anthologies or a series of collections and read them fast and see what stops you. (You can always go back and read further, slower, but just look for the patterns of pretension.) See who is able to avoid the thump-thump run-ups to the rhymes or who speaks to hear themselves talk or who tries to make a 'point.'


TJ



[This message has been edited by Tom Jardine (edited April 26, 2005).]
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Old 04-26-2005, 10:40 AM
albert geiser albert geiser is offline
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It comes from Gyspy music. It's Deep Song. I have Lorca's book. I'll find it in my office and be back later tonight to post about it.
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Old 04-26-2005, 01:10 PM
thompson thompson is offline
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Duende has to do with only with flamenco culture. It is Spanish, Andalusian. See the performance by Agujetas in Carlos Saura's film _Flamenco_ and you'll get the idea.

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Old 04-26-2005, 04:29 PM
albert geiser albert geiser is offline
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Lorca: In Search of Duende, New Directions paperback translated by Christopher Maurer, copyright 1995, 1998

This is an excellent book. Every poet should own it.


Lorca says the most genuine, perfect prototype of deep song is the Gypsy song, the siguiriya. The name deep song is given to a group of Andalusian songs.

Deep song is "a stammer, a wavering emission of the voice." Lorca makes clear that deep song is distinct from the flamenco. Lorcas says that flamenco, unlike deep song, does not proceed by undulation but by leaps.

Deep song is the oldest song in all Europe, Lorca says, The Gypsy siguiriya begins with a terrible scream that "divides the landscape into two ideal hemispheres. It is the scream of lost generations, a poignant elegy for lost centuries, the pathetic evocation of love under other moons and other winds."

My notes: So, if one is looking to be influenced by deep song in poetry, it appears not to lead to a contemporary feeling. However, it's a guitar music that came with the guitar to Europe. So, deep song and the depth of the poet's art can bring the poet into a relationship with the guitar that ordinary songwriting and pop music can't do.

The question then is what can the poet do with this idea of primitive sounds which don't have words or written phonetics.

The book includes translations of Lorca's deep song poems, among them several translations by W.S. Merwin.

Duende is more than the deep song itself. Lorca calls duende "the black sounds."

Lorca turns mystical when he describes duende. I think there must be a way to bring this idea out in poetry without assuming it is mystical. However, one shouldn't worry about the usual assumptions of craft for an emotion like this. Lorca says that an artist has to fight his duende. I'm not sure I agree with this. "He rejects all the sweet geometry we have learned... smashes the styles, leans on human pain with no consolation..."

I would argue that duende can easily be defeated if the poet doesn't want more than craft. Robert Frost has no duende in his poetry, and his work is adored. Duende can be closed out by the strict iambic.

Lorca speaks of a singer who "...had an exquisite audience, one which demanded the marrow of forms, pure music, with a body lean enough to stay in the air."

He says, "The duende's arrival always means a radical change in forms."

Lorca makes a distinction of the duende with the angel and the muse. "Angel and muse escape with violin, meter, and compass; the duende wounds. In the healing of that wound,which never closes, lies the strange invented qualities of a work."

The duende comes in the content. Looks to me like a good way to put it is when the form falls away like your clothes before you jump into a hot spring under a full moon. The form, whether it's a sonnet, a nonce, just a rigid iambic, or some complex form like a ballade, whatever it is, it will be there on the ground by the spring when you get out of the water, and then you will have duende with you from the spring when you put your clothes back on.





[This message has been edited by albert geiser (edited April 26, 2005).]
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