Two Big Little Books

We've created a new category: books which have inspired or interested us. The reading inclinations and interests of Rowan differ from me. I doubt she would choose a book written by a poet. This is fine. The descriptions will be short and intended as suggestions for a reading list. Below are mentioned two short books written by well-known poets on subject matter for which they had a passionate relationship. 

The young Federico Garcia Lorca composed a lecture on the Andalusian music known as “deep song” in preparation for the one of a kind Festival of Cante Jondo and presented it in Granada on 19th February 1922. Reproduced in the first twenty-three pages of In Search of Duende, this composition comprised the lighting of Lorca’s spiritual and political fuse which extinguished with his tragic execution by a pro-Franco firing squad in 1936. He celebrates an embodiment of Spanish culture.

Lorca took a committed stand in translating his experience of flamenco’s duende, the dark mystery of that art form. He became at once el cantaor and el bailarin flinging his jacket onto the salon floor, utilizing inflection and moment of composition as well as its historical concept, which could not be spoken of calmly in any case, or spoken of at all.

“All over Andalusia, from the rock of Jaén to the whorled shell of Cadiz, the people speak constantly of the duende and identify it accurately and instinctively wherever it appears. The marvelous singer El Lebrijano, creator of the Debla, said: ‘On days when I sing with duende no one can touch me.’ The old Gypsy dancer La Malena once heard Brailowsky play a fragment of Bach, and exclaimed: ‘Olé! That has duende!’ but was bored by Gluck, Brahms and Darius Milhaud. Manuel Torre, a man who had more culture in the blood than any man I ever met, pronounced this splendid sentence on hearing Falla play his own Nocturno del Generalife: ‘All that has black sounds has duende.’ And there is no greater truth.”

The Spanish poet posited a common blood-soaked ground in relating to other disciplines that state attained by the best rural flamenco singers:

“Each art has a duende different in form and style, but their roots meet in the place where the black sounds of Manuel Torre come from – the essential, uncontrollable, quivering, common base of wood, sound, canvas and word. . .

The duende. . . .Where is the duende? Through the empty arch comes a wind, a mental wind blowing relentlessly over the heads of the dead, in search of new landscapes and unknown accents; a wind that smells of baby’s spittle, crushed grass, and jellyfish veil, announcing the constant baptism of newly created things.”

Charles Simic investigated Joseph Cornell and his surreal boxes with Dime Store Alchemy, his tone energetically similar to Lorca. Simic assembled his book as Cornell might have one of his boxes, drawing from places he loved and arranging words to create precious two-dimensional objects, framed similarly; The Truth of Poetry, for example:

"A toy is a trap for dreamers. The true toy is a poetic object.

There’s an early sculpture of Giacometti’s called The Palace at 4 a.m. (1932). It consists of no more than a few sticks assembled into a spare scaffolding, which the mysterious title makes haunting and unforgettable. Giacometti said that it was a dream house for him and the woman with whom he was in love.

These are dreams that a child would know. Dreams in which objects are renamed and invested with imaginary lives. A pebble becomes a human being. Two sticks leaning against the other make a house. In that world one plays the game of being someone else.

This is what Cornell is after, too. How to construct a vehicle of reverie, an object that would enrich the imagination of the viewer and keep him company forever."

Joseph Cornell

Joseph Cornell

In reading the two little books, one gets to know both of these passionate men as the bars of their respective imaginations had to be raised in order to respect and meet the complexity of their subject matter.