The Art of Duende


Since Federico Garcia Lorca, a prominent artists in Spain, known for his poetry and plays, reconstituted the meaning of duende, defining it for a new generation of artists, the word no longer fills the mind with goblins.

In “Play and Theory of the Duende,” Garcia Lorca states, “the duende is a power and not a behavior, it is a struggle and not a concept . . . it is not a matter of ability, but of real live form; of blood; of ancient culture; of creative action.” He defines it by defining how it feels, how it possess the artist and moves the feet, strangles the voice, and boils the blood. He defines duende with duende, because it can never be truly explained, merely attempted, which is why Cezanne painted the same mountain. Why Emily Dickinson never got enough of death. Why art always needs to become something else.


Duende is in the practice of art, the passion of art. It’s greater than the muse or the angel. According to Garica Lorca, duende joins us at the pit, at the edge of death long after the muse and the angel have abandoned us. Duende escorts us to that end where it’s possible to conceive our truest art. You know duende when you feel it, when you embody it.


Frederico Garcia Lorca

If duende does not exist, we do not exist. Our awareness of it strengthens our ability to feel it move within us, to know our highest expression of self. Duende is our communion with the universe. In “Poetry and the Mind of Concentration,” written by Jane Hirshfield, Hirshfield states, “time slows and extends, and a person’s every movement and decision seem to partake of perfection . . . the experience of concentration maybe quietly physical–a simple, unexpected sense of deep accord between yourself and everything.” For the writer, duende exists in the inspiration of words, in the need of words. It is the secret language of our souls.

By Erica Spriggs