Festival Diary #3: Sunday and Monday
Patti Smith in Concert, Hamer Hall; Patti Smith and Philip Glass: A Tribute to Allen Ginsberg, Playhouse Theatre, Victorian Arts Centre.
The duende is a power, not a work; it is a struggle, not a thought.... It is not a question of ability, but of true living style, of blood, of the most ancient culture, of spontaneous creation.
The muse and the angel come from without; the angel gives lights, and the muse gives forms (Hesiod learned from her). Leaf of gold or tunic fold: the poet receives norms in his bosk of laurels. But one must awaken the duende in the remotest mansions of the blood.
And reject the angels, and give the muse a kick in the seat of the pants, and conquer our fear of the smile of violets exhaled by eighteenth century poetry and of the great telescope in whose lens the muse, sickened by limits, is sleeping...
Years ago, an eighty-year-old woman won first prize at a dance contest in Jerez de la Frontera. She was competing against beautiful women and young girls with waists as supple as water, but all she did was raise her arms, throw back her head and stamp her foot on the floor. In that gathering of muses and angels, beautiful forms and beautiful smiles, who could have won but her moribund duende, sweeping the floor with its wings of rusty knives?
Bring on your wings of rusty knives, Patti. Bring on your soaring, shamanic voice, your unbrushed hair, your face with its stern profile of an Incan priest, your skinny upraised arms. The loved dead gather to listen and the living rise up and cheer, they rise up with their shining eyes, they rise up and you smile like a little girl, or you sag suddenly, tired and sixty years old, vulnerable and needing a sip of water, needing to touch someone's shoulder, you turn away and turn back and the chords begin and from nowhere, again, how do you do it, from nowhere the duende enters and here there is no tiredness, no pain, no death, only the song of celebration, the rebellious dance of living itself, the heartbeat triumphant into eternity, for this moment, this moment only.
All we do is for that frightened thing we call Love, want and lack -
O but how many in their solitude weep aloud like me.
Or gentle in a theatre, leaning into the microphone, leaning into the music, the piano rushing like a river you can never enter twice, only now, shy and inhaling all that water, glancing over to Philip who sits at the keyboard soberly possessed by his hands. And the words struggle out of your mouth and transform the air we breathe, the words are your own and you weave them into a paean, an elegy, a chant that celebrates living with all its imperfections, all its fleshly mistakes, and the girl next to me is weeping, what has she remembered, what has she touched in the soft, dark vaults of her body?
And yes, this is poetry, one flame that leaps from mouth to ear to heart and burns the living and the dead, no distance here, no mask to save us from ourselves, only the cleansing rush of laughter, that naughty Buddhist Allen, bless and forgive him for he knew what he did all the time, an old man in his old body with the soul of a damaged, hungry, joyous child, an old man who wrestled with shame until it danced as a fiery angel, an old man who lived his life and wrote it down in poems, uncensoring and tender, with a hand that smelt of mortality and sex. A simple thing, the gifts of those who loved a poet and pledge them in his name, saying this is what I can give, these things I make with my hands and my voice, unchained from the page and in flight, here they are, blazing wings and broken feathers, a body of light and music, poems, in your desiring body, now.
The world is holy! The soul is holy! The skin is holy! The nose is holy! The tongue and cock and asshole holy!
Everything is holy! everybody's holy! everywhere is holy! everyday is in eternity! Everyman's an angel!