Monday, October 5, 2015


Inspiration, 2015

I was waiting for a smoothie and reading an article in The Surfer's Journal (No, I'm not a surfer, but I did actually get up on a board and "surf" in Hawaii a few years back...Yes, I did.) and saw mention of a lecture Federico García Lorca, the poet, gave in Buenos Aires in 1933. Actually, I was waiting for a smoothie, drawn in by this photograph and overlaid text, then began reading the article.

The article first quoted García Lorca as saying duende is
"...that mysterious power that everyone feels but no philosopher can explain."
I later perused Wikipedia's Duende (art) entry and found:
"El duende is the spirit of evocation. It comes from inside as a physical/emotional response to art. It is what gives you chills, makes you smile or cry as a bodily reaction to an artistic performance that is particularly expressive."
And García Lorca had written:
"The duende, then, is a power, not a work. It is a struggle, not a thought. I have heard an old maestro of the guitar say, 'The duende is not in the throat; the duende climbs up inside you, from the soles of the feet.' Meaning this: it is not a question of ability, but of true, living style, of blood, of the most ancient culture, of spontaneous creation."
Climbs up inside you, from the soles of the feet... Fantastic.

García Lorca's 1933 lecture ended with:
"The duende….Where is the duende? Through the empty archway a wind of the spirit enters, blowing insistently over the heads of the dead, in search of new landscapes and unknown accents: a wind with the odour of a child’s saliva, crushed grass, and Medusa’s veil, announcing the endless baptism of freshly created things."
Think about that for a while.

Thanks to The Surfer's Journal 24.2, the Duende (art) Wikipedia entry, and Poetry in Translation's translated text from the 1933 lecture, Theory and Play of the Duende.


  1. I've never read that lecture but I'm going to now!!!

    1. If you haven't gotten to it yet, here's a taste (the first three sentences...).

      "Between 1918 when I entered the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid, and 1928 when I left, having completed my study of Philosophy and Letters, I listened to around a thousand lectures, in that elegant salon where the old Spanish aristocracy went to do penance for its frivolity on French beaches.

      Longing for air and sunlight, I was so bored I used to feel as though I was covered in fine ash, on the point of changing into peppery sneezes.

      So, no, I don’t want that terrible blowfly of boredom to enter this room, threading all your heads together on the slender necklace of sleep, and setting a tiny cluster of sharp needles in your, my listeners’, eyes."

  2. Oh, I love this. Thank you for teaching me something new, and allowing me to ponder this a bit.

  3. I encountered duende many years ago, and can't recall where but I think to do with flamenco: it snagged into me. I love to think of you surfing ;) I think of my own few times on a board, my envy of those more adept - and how duende can be felt as flow...

  4. ps. that title in the magazine! I want to read that book..

    1. Yes, it is definitely related to flamenco. I took a look at the Wikipedia flamenco entry and found this interesting bit: "In traditional flamenco, young people are not considered to have the emotional maturity to adequately convey the duende (soul) of the genre. Therefore, unlike other dance forms, where dancers turn professional early to take advantage of youth and strength, many flamenco dancers do not hit their peak until their thirties and will continue to perform into their fifties and beyond."

  5. Yes, as you mentioned, the beauty of masters of the surf! Many years ago I attended a spanish friend's wedding in Granada and was struck by the "soul" of everyone's dancing, young and old. Reading Lorca's description of duende and your comment exchange on flamenco just created a aha-moment for me of that memory.

    1. That must be a really beautiful memory, Diane. I'm happy to know I had a little something to do with bringing it back to you. : )