Lorca and El Duende.

The Spanish poet, Frederico Garcia Lorca, wrote and spoke extensively about El Duende

Duende (“having duende”) loosely means having soul, a heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity that originates in the Southern Spanish folk-music and dance of flamenco. The artistic and especially musical term was derived from the Duende, an elf or goblin-like magic creature in Spanish mythology.
El Duende is the spirit of enchantment. We often experience a creative work such as a piece of writing, music, or visual art, and appreciate it. We understand that it is ‘worthy’ of appreciation. Perhaps a teacher has explained why it is worthy, or maybe because having studied the qualities that make good works of art, we can begin to search for those particular qualities in other works and tell whether they are worthy or not. There is a whole science devoted to art appreciation. There are books on how to read poets such as TS Eliot, and books on how to look at the paintings of Cezanne.
El Duende is not the spirit of appreciation. El Duende is not the spirit of worthiness.
El Duende is the spirit of reacting with your innermost being.
El Duende wells up from your core as a physiological response to art.
First year medical students study Anatomy and Physiology. Anatomy details the parts of the body. Physiology details how the parts work together to give life to the body: breathing, circulation, skin tone, temperature, nerves, electrical synapses, and so forth.
When you stand before a truly great work of art it is the spirit of El Duende who makes your breath quicken, your pulse race, and your skin tingle. Perhaps even makes you weep, or laugh, or terrifies you.

Folk Music is music of the homeless. For those who are constantly forced to move on, either by climate or by governments, there can be no pianos or orchestras. Flamenco originate with Spanish gypsies. Their instruments were light, easy to make, and easy to repair; guitars and violins, and most significantly, the human voice. Flamenco embodies an authenticity that can only come from diaspora: those who are dispersed, who must constantly move on again.

This is where I would like to lead you as you progress through this class.
I want you to start to be able to write in a way that moves your readers in the deepest part of their souls. Together we will try to figure out how to write in a way that forces our readers weep or laugh.

Perhaps, like me, you have lived in comfortable homes all your life, with regular meals, with central heating, refrigerators and hygienic washing facilities.
Do not despair. It has often been said that those have survived a normal upbringing have more than enough experience to write volumes of literature.

It’s true that libraries and bookstores have shelf-loads of books by authors who have experienced amazing things in their lives.
But most books are written by authors who have had rather dull lives. The difference is that they have looked deeply into the ordinary and discovered the extraordinary.
This, for me, is the secret of Creative Writing––if there is a secret.
We will read, write, and analyze poetry to develop a personal writing style.
We will read, write, and analyze memoir to try to understand what really happened in our lives.
We will read, write, and analyze fiction, in order to learn how to structure compelling narratives.
And El Duende will be just below the surface the whole time.

So, why do I like the idea of El Duende?

For me it’s a little neutral in terms of belief. As a group we have a variety of belief systems that range from the deeply religious (and across a variety of religions and philosophies) to atheism, and duende hopefully shouldn’t interfere with any of those systems of belief.

Are there really elves? Or are they merely something psychological? Even neurological?

Whatever you believe about the universe, embrace this moment of the blank page.

Wait a minute before you pick up your pen––or scissors––or glue stick.

There might be a billion civilizations in our galaxy alone. In terms of science and technology every single one of those worlds might be progressing along similar paths to our own, but no being in any of of those worlds will ever create what you are are about to create.

You are about to add something to the history of the universe that would never exist from the beginning to the end of time if you were not about to put it there––and that is true regardless of your beliefs.

According to Christopher Maurer, editor of “In Search of Duende”, at least four elements can be isolated in Lorca’s vision of duende: irrationality, earthiness, a heightened awareness of death, and a dash of the diabolical.
The duende is an earth spirit who helps the artist see the limitations of intelligence, reminding them that “ants could eat him or that a great arsenic lobster could fall suddenly on his head.”

“The duende is a force, not a labour, a struggle, not a thought,” said Lorca. “I heard an old maestro of the guitar say: ‘The duende is not in the throat: the duende surges up, inside, from the soles of the feet.’ Meaning, it’s not a question of skill, but of a style that’s truly alive: meaning, it’s in the veins.” Lorca identified its presence, particularly, in cante jondo, a kind of Andalusian folk music. “Behind these poems,” he wrote, “lurks a terrible question that has no answer.”

The lobster who brings the artist face-to-face with death, and who helps them create and communicate memorable, spine-chilling art.

Nick Cave has described as “the eerie and inexplicable sadness that lives at the heart of certain works of art”. It was nice, I felt, to put a name to a face.
Many other songwriters, who are poets at heart, also elicit duende. They include Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, and Leonard Cohen.

The Guitar: Federico García Lorca, 1898 – 1936

The weeping of the guitar begins.
The goblets of dawn
are smashed.

The weeping of the guitar
begins.
Useless
to silence it.

Impossible
to silence it.

It weeps monotonously
as water weeps
as the wind weeps
over snowfields.

Impossible
to silence it.

It weeps for distant
things.

Hot southern sands
yearning for white camellias.

Weeps arrow without target
evening without morning
and the first dead bird
on the branch.

Oh, guitar!

Heart mortally wounded
by five swords.

For me, a good place to look for El Duende is in some of the better Country music. This is the song Choctaw Bingo by James McMurtry.
James McMurtry is the sone of Larry McMurtry who wrote what is acknowledged to be the greatest cowboy novel of all time: Lonesome Dove.

I will try to play the song here

Here are the lyrics:

Strap them kids in 

Give ’em a little bit of vodka in a cherry coke

We’re going to Oklahoma to the family reunion for the first time in years

It’s up at uncle Slayton’s cause he’s getting on in years

You know he no longer travels but he’s still pretty spry

He’s not much on talking and he’s just too mean to die

And they’ll be comin’ down from Kansas

And from west Arkansas

It’ll be one great big old party like you never saw

Uncle Slayton’s got his Texan pride

Back in the thickets with his Asian bride

He’s got a Airstream trailer and a Holstein cow 

He still makes whiskey ’cause he still knows how

He plats that Choctaw bingo every Friday night

You know he had to leave Texas but he won’t say why

He owns a quarter section up by Lake Eufala

Caught a great big ol’ blue cat on a driftin’ jug line 

Sells his hardwood timber to the shipping mill

Cooks that crystal meth because the shine don’t sell

He cooks that crystal meth because the shine don’t sell

You know he likes his money he don’t mind the smell

My cousin Roscoe Slayton’s oldest boy from his second marriage up in Illinois

He was raised in East St. Louis by his momma’s people 

Where they do things different 

Thought he’d just come on down

He was going to Dallas Texas in a semi truck called from that big McDonald’s

You know the one they built up on that great big ol’ bridge

Across the Will Rogers Turnpike

Took the Big Cabin exit stopped and bought a couple of cartons of cigarettes

At that Indian Smoke Shop with the big neon smoke rings

In the Cherokee Nation hit Muskogee late that night 

Somebody ran a stoplight at the Shawnee Bypass 

Roscoe tried to miss ’em but he didn’t quite 

Bob and Mae come up from little town

Way down by lake Texoma where he coaches football

They were two A champions now for two years running

But he says they won’t be this year no they won’t be this year

And he stopped off in Tushka at that “Pop’s Knife and Gun” place

Bought a SKS rifle and a couple a full cases of that steel core ammo

With the berdan primers from some East bloc nation that no longer needs ’em

And a Desert Eagle that’s one great big ol’ pistol 

I mean .50 caliber made by bad ass Hebrews 

And some surplus tracers for that old BAR of Slayton’s

Soon as it gets dark we’re gonna have us a time

We’re gonna have us a time

Ruth Ann and Lynn come down from Baxter Springs

That’s one hell raisin’ town way up in Southeastern Kansas

Got a biker bar next to the lingerie store

That’s got them Rolling Stones lips up there where everyone can see ’em

And they burn all night you know they burn all night you know they burn all night

Ruth Ann and Lynn they wear them cut off britches and those skinny little halters

And they’re second cousins to me

Man I don’t care I want to get between ’em

With a great big ol’ hard on like a old bois d’ arc fence post

You could hang a pipe rail gait from 

Do some twisted sisters ’til the cows come home 

And we’d be havin’ us a time

Uncle Slayton’s got his Texan pride

Back in the thickets with his Asian bride

He’s cut that corner pasture into acre lots’ 

He sells ’em owner financed

Strictly to them that’s got no kind of credit ‘cCause he knows they’re slackers

When they miss that payment

Then he takes it back 

He plays that Choctaw Bingo every Friday night

Drinks that Johnny Walker at that Club 69

We’re gonna strap them kids in give ’em a little bit o’ Benadryl

And a cherry coke we’re goin’ to Oklahoma Gonna have us a time