post-novel clean-up and found things ...

It's amazing the amount of detritus that piles up around my chair when I'm working on a novel. Over the weekend, I cleaned away the debris and filed three binders full of notes that will be used to construct the next novel in this series.

Out of all the information I researched, I believe the most enjoyable was discovering Federico Garcia Lorca and his poetry, plays, and lectures. Lorca was a fascinating, talented man whose life was cut short at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War when he was arrested and murdered by Nationalists. It is believed that he is buried in a common grave somewhere in Granada; although his remains have never been found.

Internationally renowned prior to his death, Lorca's poetry and works were banned by Francisco Franco's regime and did not become available again until after 1953. Fortunately, his works are now available in English and Spanish, his plays, his lectures, and his poetry lives on.

Lorca asked us to look beyond the limits of reason and see the fantastic in life and in death. He believed that art was tied to the land, to love, and to death, which was not an end but merely a new beginning, a passage, a new way of seeing. The five senses limit us to a mundane world, but Lorca believed in the extraordinary, the duende, the black sounds.

While I was cleaning up, I found a small book that I had ordered early in my research; a short collection entitled In Search of Duende, which contains several of Lorca's lectures on the subject along with some of his poetry. In "Play and Theory of the Duende," Lorca recites a lyric poem taken from Cancionero Musical del Palacio, an early sixteenth century Spanish song-book reprinted in 1890 by F. Asenjo Barbieri:

In the garden

I will die.

In the roses

they will kill me.

I was going, mother,

to pick roses,

to find death

in the garden.

I was going, mother,

to cut roses,

to find death

among the roses.

In the garden

I will die,

in the roses

they will kill me.

There is a longing here for love and for life, yet a sweet resignation to the death that will eventually find us all.

Federico Garcia Lorca was born in 1898 and died in 1936. He understood the dark nature of the duende and transformed it into his poetry and plays. Lorca was also a homosexual, and he passionately believed in his voice, his right, and the rights of others, to live life to its fullest extent, open and in the sun. Not many people have enough faith in themselves to do that.

All these thoughts return to me as I put away my notes and my books; although I occasionally stop and reread some passages that resonate more strongly than others, such as the poem above. It was a hard story to write, for many reasons, and is nothing like the story I set out to tell, but that's all right.

Sometimes my stories turn out the way I intend for them too, and sometimes my stories turn out the way they are meant to be ... and that's all right too. In the end, I was true to the vision of the story, and that is what is important.

the dark sounds

"You have a voice, you understand style, but you'll never ever succeed,
because you have no duende." --Manuel Torre*


I had a muse once. She sat upon an ivory column and occasionally tossed nuggets of prose into my brain, then she would smile and fall mute. She was made of mist and glass, a fragile creature that hid her face on a moment's notice. I thought myself a failure as an artist because she didn't serve me, but that was before I found the duende.

The muse is a voice, she is style, but she is not the same as duende. The muse is a whim; duende is the truth of the soul.

Duende is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. Duende produces a visceral reaction and makes your soul shout. The dancer lifts his hands and stamps his foot, and you feel the emotion of that movement from the soles of your feet to the top of your head.

It is in poetry:

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

               ---Sonnet XVII, Pablo Neruda

Duende is all darkness and light, mixed together and revealed through performance. Do not confuse duende with chiaroscuro. Chiaroscuro is the contrast of light and dark, all black and white with pale shades of gray. The duende blends light and dark to produce hues that are deeper, more vibrant and intense. Duende encompasses spirituality in a way that chiaroscuro doesn't.

Chiaroscuro is technique. Duende is loss and yearning and hope made manifest.

The muse whispers. The duende is a wild undulation in the night, a black spirit that gives nothing, but wrenches each word from the heart and flings it across the page in blood and tears.

Keep your muse.
I dance with the duende,
I dance in the dark,
and I see the light.


*The quote is taken from a lecture given by the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca in 1933, Theory and Play of the Duende.