|Duende - the passion and the pain||
Happy to find out today that my short, short story (Lorna's Island) has been read by actor Sean Kaufman for Wildsound's monthly writing festival. Nice work, Sean!
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There's a great line in the Wall Street film The Big Short, in which a motley bunch of financiers predict the housing crash of the mid 2000s and make squillions from their eccentric punt. One guy to another - 'Poetry is like the truth'. Reply - 'Yeah, and everyone f**king hates poetry'. It gets a good laugh because who can't remember struggling their way through Prufrock or Paradise Lost back at school, effectively sounding its death knell for evermore?
However, last week I attended an unusual event at Howard Walwyn's beautiful clock gallery in Kensington Church Street. A selection of poems, all with a time theme, were read out by candlelight, aided by wine, audience participation and of course the ticking clocks. Curiously the clocks struck eight right on cue with A E Houseman's poem Eight o' Clock (the hour at which people used to be executed back in the 19th C).
Unlike my schoolgirl memories, there was something strangely soothing about listening to poems that covered the whole gamut of human emotions and experience in a communal setting. Is it time (sorry) for poems to be given a better rap?
A double dose of poetry this week . Celebrating International Women's Day (March 8th) with a group of strong women at Redbridge Library, sharing our poetry, artwork and stories. It made me remember that most people go through a lot in life (even if it's not obvious to the outside eye) and that events like this can help us realize we're not alone.
On a more personal note, a short story I had kind of written off, finally got accepted by The People's Friend magazine this week. It's taken me a long while to re-crack this publication but of course the motto is - never give up. Now scrambling around, trying to come up with fresh story ideas. No doubt one will crop up when I'm thinking about something completely different. The subconscious mind can't be forced.
Last night I went to see the paintings of a precocious young talent - William Foyle at the Royal College of Art in South Ken. His pictures, particularly his series of Holocaust paintings completed this year, blew me away and if I'd had 6k in my pocket I'd gladly have parted with it and bought one. Some people I spoke to last night said they'd find it hard to live with one of these pictures - they were too raw and disquieting.
But to me, they embody the resilience of the human spirit in the face of horrifying adversity. Watch out for William. His work is beautiful and captures exactly what I'm striving to do with words.
Surely the two arts are integral, one to another?
This weekend saw the brilliant Muffin Men Productions (and women) spring into action/battle with my short film Tough Love, a drama about a student trying to overcome his parents' breakup who gets help from unexpected quarters. Restults to be posted here soon-ish. Meanwhile some pics from the shoot.
Florian Schwienbacher admirably brings the character, Franz, to life in a spooky office.
The super-talented Rebecca Doctor, DOP, in action/batlle with Vicki Taylor.
The long-awaited London Screenwriters' Festival is over! Four days of intense workshops, pitching sessions, script advice and read-throughs alongside hundreds of like-minded story-tellers.
Pitching Sunday may have been a bit outside my comfort zone but I am already thinking about signing up for LSF 2015!
No one sunbathes here. No one sits outside a cafe and basks in the potent UV rays. The sun in Seville at this time of year feels like a laser and unlike most places in the world, people opt to walk on the shady side of the street rather than the energy-sapping sunny side. A long line of pedestrians stick close to the walls, giving any street in the city an odd asymmetrical look. Sometimes this is mitigated by a sun-starved tourist but soon they too wise up and opt for the shadows.
Seville is said to be one of the hottest, if not the hottest, place in Europe. Temperatures of 40 C plus are normal in July and August. The heat feels as if you have been wrapped in a large, damp winter coat – in a sauna. Things taste different when the weather outside is hotter than you are inside; sleep doesn’t come easy and when it does, it feels more like a snooze on a plane than deep sleep.
But the good news is that Seville does hot like Norway does cold. Instead of outdoor heat lamps, every restaurant and bar has little sprinklers which give you a light but welcome shower as you amble past. White blinds are draped aesthetically over the narrow shopping alleys in order to provide some relief from the relentless sun. Dogs are hosed down before they go out, their coats wet and sodden.
Before I came to Andalusia, I rarely bothered to check the weather forecast but just took whatever the day threw at me. Rain, snow, sun? I’d take my chances. Here, checking the weather is the second religion. Each morning, I experience a not altogether pleasant anticipation as the giant orb of the sun seems to grow bigger, glow brighter. Each evening, when the relative cool descends, I feel a sense of relief and do a silent rain dance as I prepare myself for whatever the next day has in store.
Duende. (n) the mysterious power of art to deeply move a person.
Amy Winehouse and Billie Holiday had it. So did Frida Kahlo and Van Gogh.
Duende is an enigmatic Spanish word which literally means elf or spirit. But when used in relation to flamenco, it’s all about the dancer’s ability to convey strong emotion to the audience. Be it pleasure or pain.
Purists might argue that flamenco is the only art form that can transmit duende. For flamenco requires the performer to bare their soul; to dig deep into their own life experience and then expose it for the whole world to see. Inner thoughts as outer thoughts, if you like. The stuff we normally keep hidden for fear of alienating (even losing) friends/family/boss is set free.
If flamenco has perfect technique but no feeling then aficionados would consider it to have failed.
I would argue that any artistic pursuit that moves us – whether it’s art, music, film, poetry, prose, or indeed dance – should qualify for a duende rating. So Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait with her pet monkeys (she longed for children, but couldn’t have them) and Francis Bacon’s triptych of his dead lover, George Dyer, have duende in my opinion because they move me to tears.
The ability to make an emotional connection with the audience is almost as mysterious as the word duende itself. Why do some people achieve it while others fail?
What sends shivers down your spine? What has duende for you?