Abbreviated intro to the reading I did tonight at the Greensboro Writers’ Forum, which leads, more importantly perhaps, to Lorca.
The most important thing I can say about place and writing is that we are place. Landscape is not merely green fields dotted with cows. My thinking around place has been significantly influenced by Lorca’s essay on duende: on what he calls this “mysterious force that everyone feels and no philosopher has explained which is… the spirit of the earth.” The power of literature arises from our soulful connection to the earth–with all the light and also all the darkness that encompasses. My book, set on a rural Vermont farm, unwinds as the characters evolve from a youthful idealism to the day-to-day reality of struggling to earn a livelihood from agriculture. All farms confront failure in one way or another; whether in small doses or wholesale catastrophe–much as we do in our own lives. In the end, perhaps, that’s the rub in this world–that mixed, gray place between intense joy and utter sorrow–where our own human stories unfold, and that’s where literature thrives.
So, then, the duende is a force not a labour, a struggle not a thought. I heard an old maestro of the guitar say: ‘The duende is not in the throat: the duende surges up, inside, from the soles of the feet.’ Meaning, it’s not a question of skill, but of a style that’s truly alive: meaning, it’s in the veins: meaning, it’s of the most ancient culture of immediate creation.