28 November 2008

Random Thoughts on Spain, Duende, Lorca, etc

May 14, 2008:

Oh, Sunday. I love her. She's such a tease and leaves me wanting more each time she comes round.

So, I spent most of the day reading various books...one of them being The Demon and the Angel by Edward Hirsch. It pretty much talks about sources of artistic inspiration. But what I found most interesting was his thoughts on duende and Federico Garcia Lorca

sigh. Reading it reminded me of my time in Spain. I adore Spain, but most of all, the Southern Province of Spain -- Andalusia. I went there for a summer to study...lived in Seville and traveled all over Andalusia -- my favorite city, though, was Granada (though Seville is a close second). I can't explain how beautiful and moving an experience it was to go to the Alhambra and walk the "weeping streets" that Lorca wrote about in his poetry. I wrote an essay on it for my Religion class that I took while studying abraod. Here's a portion of it (and don't laugh):

Upon arriving in Granada via the train from Seville, I noticed the lush green landscape of the Vega against the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I knew I was in a place unlike any other. It is hard to describe the atmosphere of Granada; poets and artists have tried for centuries to capture the mood that one enters into while walking its streets. Federico Garcia Lorca described the town in a letter to Melchor Fernandez Almargo dated October 27, 1927:

      Granada looks splendid…it is an astounding richness, which, no matter how stylized, cannot be captured. Granada isn't pictorial, even for an Impressionist. It isn't pictorial, just as a river is not architectonic. Everything runs, plays, and slips away. Poetry and Music. A city of fugues without a skeleton. Melancholy with vertebrae. (Season in Granada, 50)

That was the introduction to my essay-- which goes on to talk about Lorca's poetry in a somewhat religious context (somewhat?). I said in my essay that: "Lorca may have seen Granada as the last pure city in Spain; the last place where the arts: poetry, philosophy, and music, were able to be performed freely. He believed that "all granadinos carry inside of them….the gypsy, the Jew, the Moor," and perhaps his longing for social justice during his time helped to create the feeling of mourning for his city.

There's a lot more going on there as far as the city of Granada as it represents the loss of a culture (end of Muslim rule in 1400's) and how that loss ties into the present culture of Spain, etc. T
he loss of the Alhambra from the Moors was "a terrible moment" Lorca said, "for an admirable civilization was lost, with poetry, astronomy, architecture, and delicacy that were unequaled in the world" (Maurer xiv).

However, what was not lost was a culture who embraces their history--which includes the idea of duende.

Edward Hirsch wrote that Lorca's duende "is an enabling figure … because it makes something visible that might otherwise be invisible" (Hirsch xiii).

Duende is like a spirit that creative and gifted people "have." For example: a flamenco dancer is said to "have duende" (tener duende) in other words, is possessed – driven by some force to create…caught in a spell of emotion, and Lorca said in one of his lectures that "all over Andalusia, from the rock of the Jaen to the whorled shell of Cadiz, the people speak constantly of the 'duende,' and identify is accurately and instinctively wherever it appears" (Deep Song).

They sure do! Okay, you know how I'm always talking about how I cry in public places? If I can cry from reading a collection of poetry in Borders in Fort Worth, Texas -- just imagine me, sitting in a tapa, listening to flamenco music -- watching dancers, hearing the sounds of deunde coming from their chests as they sing, mourn. Or how about as I walk along the gardens of the Generalife? Or stand in the Cathedral in Seville on St. Anthony day and a woman comes over to me, places her hand on my arm and says: tienes deunde.

No joke: she said that I HAD duende. And I had heard this term before...my Spanish language professor was talking about it one day when we got on the topic of the sacredness of bullfights, the imminent death there...yet, by death, celebrating life, re-birth -- and then, when I met and slightly fell in love with my "intercambio" David -- (intercambio means that we met a couple times a week and practiced each other's language...he helped me with Spanish, I helped him with English) anyway, he got the idea to take me to an outdoor theatre play (it was amazing, about Moorish king or something -- I don't remember but it was in the gardens at night and the whole thing was so...moving, lots of dance and wine and passion and mourning) The heat was intense, even though it was nighttime...anyway, he said that the garden was filled with it or something and he then said "You have deunde, poets, they have it."

(of course, I thought perhaps he was just saying this to be nice, you know, in hope...)

However, I think we all have this passion inside of us...some of us just are more aware of it than others. It also takes a sense of being aware of death...of how precious life is...you know, that sort of thing that most people don't want to think about. But Spaniards do! In fact, so many other cultures are more embracing of death compared to the West, specifically America. But that's a WHOLE OTHER blog!

Also, I do know that the Spanish like poets more than most people I've encountered here. Here, it's like "You're a poet? weird!" In Spain, whenever I talked openly about my poetic pursuits, people would go on and on about duende and passion and beauty and how noble a pursuit it was -- then they'd buy me a drink (but maybe that was because I was blond and most of them were men....)

I don't know -- what I'm saying is -- I don't even know what I'm saying...but, you want to know the moment I decided that yes, I will do this whole peotry thing and not be shy about it?

I was standing in Lorca's park in Granda (where his house stands, which is now a museum) I was about to leave Spain altogether actually -- I was getting on a train that day back to Seville where the next day I would board a train to Madrid (where I flew out of and I stayed with my cousin who lives there). Anyway, I just had to see Lorca's house before I left, so I picked up a map from the Hotel lobbey and clumsily found my way over to the park...When I got to the park, I saw an old man sitting on a bench with several paintings beside him...he actually was in the process of painting another picture...anyway, he looked at me, and like we'd known each other for years he said: "Oh, fellow artist, how are you?" and I said hello, etc. and then asked him how he knew I was an artist and he said "duende!" Then he asked me what I did and I said I was a student. He said, "No, no, what do you DO" and I said "Oh, I am a poet" and he flung up his hands and said "You came to see Lorca's house! Of course, of course!" and then he took my hand, kissed it and said "You are a poet; never stop writing. Whatever your passion, keep it close. This is life." (something along those lines).

And I don't know -- just something about that old man with his paintings.

And somehow, also, the conversation was all in Spanish and I did not struggle one bit in speaking or understanding. Usually, in Spain, the only times I think I am not struggling and am speaking fluently, is when I've had a couple too many Sangrias or Cruz Campos. LOL

Anyway, I don't know the reason for this blog and it's randomness, other than Hirsch's essays on duende today reminded me of my experience in Spain two summers ago...and...I miss that community that you artists can find there -- the passion, the culture -- specifically in Andalusia.

And, it makes me feel a bit less abnormal...because, in Spain, if you become overwhelmed with emotion, if you start crying in public, lifting your hands to the sky or dropping to your knees -- if you sing or write...all of these things...you're not weird -- you're blessed....you're staying true to your passion...you simply have duende.

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