Frederico Garcia Lorca, “Play and Theory of Duende”

But intelligence is often the enemy of poetry, because it limits too much, and it elevates the poet to a sharp-edged throne where he forgets that ants could eat him or that a great arsenic lobster could fall suddenly on his head—things against which the muses that live in monocles and in the lukewarm, lacquered roses of tiny salons are quite helpless.

I think a lot about Lorca’s “great arsenic lobster.” It stands for everything and anything that seems silly and absurd and surreal, until it actually falls upon your head  because at that moment you crossed the street and passed underneath a window out of which someone wanted to rid himself of said lobster. You can create all the logical arguments you want about the improbability of the arsenic lobster. It stands for the very real threat of our sudden demise about which we spend many hours not thinking. It stands for all the ways intelligence in art is never enough. Ideas are great, but they evaporate in the company of one’s breath or heartbeat. Without breath, without an actual heartbeat, a poem is worth little.

This sentence comes from Lorca’s amazing essay on duende. You should read it if you haven’t already–it’s filled with strange, amazing, funny sentences and little stories. Duende, as Lorca defines it, is the breath, the beating heart inside any great art. It is what separates a well-crafted song/dance/poem/film/etc from one that transports and transforms us. It seems close to what Frost said: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” I doubt Frost and Lorca would have gotten on very well, but they both knew plenty about the darkness needed to make great art.


One Response to “Frederico Garcia Lorca, “Play and Theory of Duende””

  1. Monica Weiss

    Well crafted, yes. The arsenic lobster refers to the artist in the act of creating. Horrid. Poisonous. Delicious. Yes…defiantly darkness. The price to pay for great art.


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