Duende

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Duende
Federico García Lorca

It starts in the soles of your feet, moves up
to your stomach, sends butterflies stamping
through your guts. Heart trapped by chattering teeth,
you stand there, silent, wondering … can I?
will I?what if I can’t? … then a voice breaks
the silence, but it’s no longer your voice.

The Duende holds you in its grip as you
hold the room, eyes wide, possessed,
taken over like you by earth’s dark powers
volcanic within you, spewing forth their
lava of living words. The room is alive
with soul magic, with this dark, glorious
spark that devours the audience, heart
by heart. Magic ends. The maelstrom calms.

Abandoned, you stand empty, a hollow shell.
The Duende has left you. God is dead, deep
your soul’s black starless night. Exhausted,
you sink to deepest depths searching for that
one last drop at the bottom of the bottle to save
your soul and permit you a temporary peace.

Comment: “Todo lo que tiene sonidos oscuros tiene duende / All that has dark sounds has duende.” Federico García Lorca (1898-1936). García Lorca, an inspired and inspirational vocal performer, well understood those dark artistic powers that rise from a combination of earth, air, and fire to possess artists as they weave their magic, be it musical or verbal or a combination of both. Those who possess it know that they never really possess it, for it comes and goes with a will of its own and possesses them, body and soul, taking them over. Deus est in nobisit is the god within us, wrote the Romans with their understanding of the power of performance. And they are right. Those who possess it are changed by it, no longer know themselves, turn into something other than what they are and becoming something special. “Ah would some power the giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us” (Robert Burns). But what happens to us when the wondrous gift is taken away, when drab reality takes over from the glory of the stage, the spotlight, the performance of the play? That indeed is the question. And the answer varies with each of us.  I look with dismay on the comedians who, for one reason or another, when deprived of their audiences, have chosen the darkest of exits. The hollow shells of the performers who have given their all are sad things to behold. The existential emptiness that is left when the powers drain away is difficult to live with. That is why so many, faced with this darkness, akin to St. John of the Cross’ Noche Oscura del Alma / Dark Night of the Soul, chose not to live. That is not a choice that I will ever make. And I encourage all my friends to wait, to wait in patience and hope for the light, the glorious light and fire of the Duende, the Spirit that will return, will pluck us from the depths, and will raise us to the heights again.

Duende

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Duende
Federico García Lorca

It starts in the soles of your feet, moves up
to your stomach, sends butterflies stamping
through your guts. Heart trapped by chattering teeth,
you stand there, silent, wondering … can you?
will you?what if you can’t? … then a voice breaks
the silence, but it’s no longer your voice.

The Duende holds you in its grip as you
hold the room, eyes wide, mouths open, possessed,
taken over like you by earth’s dark power,
volcanic within you, spewing forth its
lava of live words. The room is alive
with soul magic, with this dark, glorious
spark that devours the audience, heart
by heart. The magic ends. The maelstrom calms.

Abandoned, you stand empty, a hollow
shell. The Duende has left you. God is dead,
deepening your soul’s black night. Exhausted,
you sink through deepest depths searching for that
one last drop at the wine bottle’s bottom
that will save your soul and permit you peace.

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Zeitgeist

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Zeitgeist

Zeitgeist is a concept from 18th- to 19th-century German philosophy, translated as “spirit of the age” or “spirit of the times”. It refers to an invisible agent or force dominating the characteristics of a given epoch.
Wikipedia 

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”

Poems for troubled times.

My current poems are deliberately cryptic. Each one is a mind game I am playing with you. I do not underestimate you. I have placed clues throughout each poem and if you follow the clues you will arrive at many of the poem’s hidden meanings. Some poems are more difficult than others, their meaning more recondite. Others seem very straightforward, yet still contain secrets.

This style of poetry has a long history going back to Anglo-Saxon riddles and way beyond, back into the mists of time. Luis de Góngora (1561-1627) and Francisco de Quevedo (1580-1645) specialized in similar forms of recondite poetry, often based on metaphor and the juego alusivo-elusivo, the game of alluding to something while eluding the act of saying what it is. Jorge Guillén (1893-1984) and Federico García Lorca (1898-1936) also played this game, as did Octavio Paz (1914-1998) and many of the surrealist writers. In the works of all of these poets, the clues may rest in the poem or they may be found in a generic knowledge of the mythology of the poem’s exterior world.

Our world finds itself in an incredible mess right now. Somehow, we have to sort it out. We must pick our ways through the difficulties of these troubled times, as you must pick your way through the intricacies of these poems. Many of you will give up. Some of you, the chosen few, will make your way to the heart of each poem. Remember that images and metaphors tie past, present, and future together. Each word, each image offers a picture that reflects some of the shared realities with which we live.

Remember, as I said above: “those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it” (George Santayana). Otherwise expressed, in the words of T. S. Eliot: “Time present and time past / are both perhaps present in time future / and time future contained in time past” (Burnt Norton). The seeming anachronisms in my recent poems suggest that perhaps all time is ever-present and always one.

Lorca

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Lorca

Solidarity screamed out from posters and stamps
that carried snapshots of the dead poet’s face.

We still haven’t found his body.
He said we never would.

They tortured him first, taunted him for being homosexual;
trussed him up; laid him face down; then shot him,
for a joke, in the offending area.

He took a long time to die. When he did,
they dumped his body in some hillside ossuary
above his home town. But first they carved
the bullets out of his corpse,
three from the anal tract,
keeping them as souvenirs.

Next day his followers were put to death.
Waverers were soon convinced by bullets
lodged at the base of another’s skull.

Later that week, Fascists, drunk, laughed
uproarious in their favorite bars.
They dropped the bullets into white wine,
watching the blood trail as it drifted down,
then drank to the re-establishment
of what they now called law and order.

Commentary:

Another Golden Oldie, also from Broken Ghosts (Goose Lane, 1986).  The Spanish poet and playwright, Federico García Lorca (poetic Generation of 1927), predicted the mystery surrounding his own death and the unknown location of his body in a poem from his surrealist collection, Poet in New York. The recent decisions in Spain to open Civil War graves and seek the identity of victims via DNA testing and other more modern means has also led to the controversial reopening of many of the wounds of a Civil War that never really healed in many parts of the country. The Basque problems and the recent troubles in Catalonia bear witness to the continued memories of Civil War and post-Civil War repression.

Lorca

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Federico García Lorca

 Solidaridad screamed out from posters and stamps
that carried snapshots of the dead poet’s face.

We still haven’t found his body.
He said we never would.

They tortured him first,
taunted him for being homosexual:
trussed him up, laid him face down,
then shot him, for a joke, in the offending area.

It didn’t take him long to die.
When he did,
his body was dumped in some way out ossuary.

But first they carved the bullets out of his corpse,
three from around the anal tract,
keeping them as souvenirs.

 Later that night, Fascists, drunk,
laughed uproariously in their favorite bars.

They dropped the bullets into their wine
and drank to the re-establishment of law and order.

 Next day his friends were put to death.

Waverers were soon convinced by bullets
lodged at the base of another’s skull …

fine arguments …