Monday, June 15, 2009

Duende & Saudade in American Poetry

Edward Hirsch's excellent Poet's Choice column yesterday has me thinking about these neglected dimensions in discussions of contemporary poetry, what I think of as the question of a poem's emotive undertones. It reminds me of Emily Dickinson's reply to Thomas Higginson as to how she defined poetry: “If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry."

Duende is of course Lorca's term for the experience of the reader being seized by "dark" qualities in the work, by which I understand him to mean mysterious, indefinable qualities. Saudade is a Portuguese term that is sometimes (poorly) translated into English as "the blues." And yet a Brazilian bossa nova song can have plenty of saudade, though it makes you want to get up and move.

Interesting, thought-provoking article.