Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Duende, Dammit

So, Gary Custer made me take a reference to "duende," out of my latest East Village Magazine column draft. He said he didn't know what it was and my husband, kibbutzing in the background, said, "Yeah, me either." Even though I tried to convince these bon vivants that it was one of those words they just HAD to put in their big dictions, so to speak, they didn't budge, and I caved. Yeah, yeah, it was a "readership" issue -- I get it, I get it.

Later, making fun of my pretensions and licking my faux wounds with my students, I discovered none of them--not even the ones who think they know everything--knew what the hell it was either. I came up with "glamorous melancholy," a delicious condition in which we poets love to wallow.

Here's the definition from Wikipedia. As I hastened to tell my vocabulary-challenged buddies, who will jump at any chance to catch me puffing out too big for my britches, it harks back to Federico Garcia Lorca. Friends, we need this word for our dark and gloomy days.

"Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca first developed the concept of Duende in a lecture he gave in La Habana in 1930.
There would appear to be something vaguely pagan and even demonic about Duende. Duende is a spirit of art, much the opposite of the Muse.
Where the Muse brings golden inspiration, Duende brings blood. The Muse speaks of life, yet Duende sings of death. Duende is not inspiration, Duende is a struggle, a dark force, having very little to do with outer beauty, a struggle present in the artist's soul, the struggle of knowing that death is imminent. It is this knowledge of death that awaits and the despair that stems from it that produce Duende, and Duende will then color the artist's work with gut-wrenching authenticity, painful hues and tones that produce strong, vibrant art."

So there, isn't that fun? P.S. Happy Birthday, Gary!


Krista said...

Now, I have no idea if this bit of poetry fits your definition or even Wikipedia's definiation of duende (should that be capitalized?), but I found it too great a coincidence that I stumbled across this bit of spoken word poetry the same day I read your post not to point it out to you.


Macy Swain said...

Very cool, Krista. I'll check it out.