Monday, March 05, 2007

Roethke Had Duende

This is a shortened version of a slideshow I made for my class, "From Angst to Art" this semester. I had given the class a copy of Federico Garcia Lorca's essay, "Theory and Play of the Duende." (Lorca's essay exists online.) In this version of the duende slideshow, I seek to compare Vaslav Nijinsky's dance to Theodore Roethke's poetry. Both Nijinsky and Roethke experienced a kind of "mysticism" which fueled their art. I highly recommend the film Nijinsky by Paul Cox. The narration is taken directly from Nijinsky's diaries. (It is also very erotic, emphasizing, I think, the relationship of eros and death.) I think at the heart of duende is love, but it is a love that comes out of blackness, out of having experienced sadness to a great degree. Blues music has duende. Frida Kahlo's paintings have duende. Lorca's poetry has duende. Lorca was fascinated by death, even obsessed by it. Tragically, he was executed during the Spanish Civil War. Artistic expression that stands at the rim of a wound has duende. This is the kind of art that I love the best. It is a form of melancholy that cleanses me. Roethke understood this. My favorite of his poems is "In a Dark Time." In the poem he describes his descent into the abyss. He describes the descent as being like the "tearing wind." This descent enfuses his work with duende. Duende is darkness and it is sadness, but it has the power to save. Standing on the rim of a wound, or even touching the wound, as Thomas does in Caravaggio's painting, bestows a special kind of knowledge. Duende is not a technique, it is the soul of the artist finding its way into the work.


ggw07 said...

And so you have climbed through the words and entered a new form-

Tom said...

Duende is a most interesting concept. When I named my blog I wanted "sunrise" to symbolize the recession of emotional darkness and "sunset" to represent the creeping hold of emotional darkness. Hence, "The Sunrise and the Sunset." I always felt that love is what drove the Chariot of the Sun in my world. If I may boldly claim duende as part of what I write, then my journal is not a wasted effort, despite the lack of blog traffic.

And, btw, I don't really feel that a lot of "hits" on our blogs are the measure of their worth anyway. . . .

Erin said...

This is so beautiful! I'd love to see more of these! Everything I've learned of Duende thus far I've learned from you, and I am very intrigued by this concept.

Anonymous said...

Theresa, I have been gone too long. This is quite beautiful,




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"I was no better than dust, yet you cannot replace me. . . Take the soft dust in your hand--does it stir: does it sing? Has it lips and a heart? Does it open its eyes to the sun? Does it run, does it dream, does it burn with a secret, or tremble In terror of death? Or ache with tremendous decisions?. . ." --Conrad Aiken


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