has duende

first, the answers to the ‘Finish Line’ game:

“blacker than the seed…in the blackberry pie” Mos Def, “Definition”

“Picasso made me…tough and quick, and the world:” O’Hara, Memorial Day 1950 (altho, Isuelt gets a point for the Winterson).

New quotes:

hip hop: “I love you like a fat”…

poetry: “A sort of walking miracle,”…

second, visit the “subaltern can blog 2: the subject-position strikes back” and COMMENT!

finally (since i must run to work), here is a paste of my comment on Lorca on Barbara Jane Reyes’s blog (in response to both Barbara and Pamela Lu) – go there too and join the discussion (also an interesting discussion there re: Williams’s “To Elsie”. anyways, this was written pretty roughly, but here it is:

So many interesting strands here. What I find striking about Lorca’s conception of “Duende” is its desire for roots / routes – that it finds its source in what he calls “blood culture,” in “what is oldest in culture,” in what comes to life in “the nethermost recesses of the blood” (these quotes are from Belitt’s translation of Lorca’s essay “The Duende: Theory and Divertissement” 1930). In counterpoint to William’s “To Elsie,” and the section Pamela highlighted, the “pure products of america” have no duende … (or as Pamela articulated:) “that is, no continuous tradition or folk/ethnic memory going back through the generations to give shape or frame to her imagination.”

In this sense, Lorca’s project of Duende seems like a project of reclaiming this tradition. I am reminded of how Lorca helped organise Spain’s first amateur festival of Andalusian “cante jundo” (flamenco music – in 1923 or something) in order to preserve it from commercial bastardization – and that it had roots from India via gypsies. Similarly, Lorca’s use of Arabic forms such as the ghazal and casida (spelling?) establishes a route into another traditional inroad. It is at this point that I wonder if this is what Pamela calls “adoption” and “synthesis” … that “There’s a burden associated with this kind of cultural “assembly,” but at the same time there’s a freedom, an edge: it pushes me always to think more globally, to see the construction of my personal self as inseparable from the construction of larger communities (along with the issues of justice that accompany them), and to look to other traditions and cultures for elements that I like and would like adopt.” I love this! But I immediately begin to question whether what Lorca is doing is “adoption” or “appropriation” or “transculturation” or perhaps a little bit of all.?

What’s a bit problematic to me about “duende” – as illogical, earthy, deathward, emotional, passionate, exotic, etc. – is its ethnographic association with things “dark” and subaltern The “black sounds” and “dark ecstasy”: the gypsies and flamenco dancers, “Arabian music” … in the essay he even goes so far as to say : “She had contrived to annihilate all that was nonessential in song and make way for an angry and incandescent Duende, friend of the sand-laden winds, so that everyone listening tore at his clothing almost in the same rhythm with which the West Indian Negroes in their rites rend away their clothes…” The orientalism is obvious here; these pure products of the new world order remain ahistorical artifacts for the European ethnographic gaze.

What’s more, is that the wretched become infrastructure for aesthetic theory – we see this also in Surrealism, in Dada, in Symbolism, this importance of the Other for the I to become (Rimbaud’s “je est un autre” as the most violent expression of this). So it is somewhat fitting that Lorca mention Rimbaud in his essay – I would also perhaps historicize the idea of “duende” from Poe and Baudelaire as well as to the Harlem Renaissance when “the subaltern was in vogue.” But perhaps I am being too unproblematic here…in the essay, Lorca does say: “In Spain (as in all Oriental countries where dance is a form of religious expression) the Duende has unlimited play…” So he is drawing a parallel between Spain and the “Orient” – that despite Spain’s colonial history, they are much more like the “other” than the rest of Europe (Baudelaire has an interesting take on this in The Spleen and I have a post of it on my blog (blindelephant.blogspot.com) called “Cockaigne”). To complicate this further, Lorca says “The bull has his orbit, and the bullfighter has his, and between orbit and orbit is the point of risk where falls the vertex of the terrible byplay.” This seems more like Oswald de Andrade’s idea of “anthropophagy” – a violent transculturation…what do you think?

Am thinking of Lorca’s duende, also, as a site of communion: “The magical virtue of poetry lies in the fact that it is always empowered with duende to baptize in dark water all those who behold it, because with duende, loving and understanding are simpler, there is always the certainty of being loved and being understood; and this struggle fro expression and for the communication of expression acquires at times, in poetry, finite characters.” This seems to relate to Pamela’s question regarding accessibility and experimentation in ethnic-american writing. If Lorca’s vehicle of communion is duende, then William’s vehicle of communion is “common speech,” or what I’ve called “currency English.” The sense being that “communication of expression” or “accessibility” should perhaps be re-conceived as “communion” – because accessibility always seems to imply semantic access, which then always leads to critiques of difficulty. If, instead, the point of community is to establish sites of communion (accessibility as communion) then “duende” or “currency English” or even language poetry’s “invitational gaps” become communion strategies – and maybe still semantically difficult, but not inaccessible as far denying access. Well, just a thought. I have to run to class now, we are reading Duncan’s H.D. Book!!!! Thanks.


4 thoughts on “has duende

  1. I consider some living poets close to me poets of Duende. Aaron Lowinger is a good example because his music gives some sense what I’m talking about.

    Your post helped me connect that powerful spirit which he gives rein to, with his hearkening back to a folk tradition, much like Lorca does gypsy tradition

    For my part, I find inspiration in the Hebrew Prophets (Aaron does as well), and the Saints.

    And Lorca, if I remember the essay correctly, emphasizes the old blood, the ancientness, more than the exoticism or darkness.

    Seems to me the search for duende is a search for emotional/physical origins: the point when the intellect was the body. Before our minds and souls were civilized.

    What often happens is that contemporaneous “other” cultures can play the role of the land that time forgot.

    I’m fascinated by the concept of an “other” defined not by ethnicity, but by era. And, as you said, the necessity of that other for our own existence.

  2. michelle: thanks!

    ez: great points…the idea of performing otherness for the other is interesting, both by era and ethnicity.

    as far as Lorca tho, i would still argue that his emphasis on old blood and ancientness relies on his exocitism of darkness / other…


  3. hey craig, sorry for my lapse here 🙂 i promise i will definitely have much more to say on this soon, esp. considering the arab poetic forms and lorca’s andalusia (its proximity to north africa hence the fluidity of cultures there), for i am interested in “adoption” or “appropriation” or “transculturation.” ok, more to come.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s