Working On My Duende
Copyright 1999 by Todd Moore. Illustrations copyright 1999 by Wayne Hogan. ISBN: 1-888832-08-8. Kings Estate Press 870 Kings Estate Road St. Augustine, Florida 32086-5033.
By Tony Moffeit
Todd Moore’s duende is the outlaw’s duende. It has as much in common with the personas of Billy the Kid, John Dillinger, Robert Johnson, Hank Williams, and Jack Kerouac, as it does with Federico Garcia Lorca’s duende. Moore states at the beginning of his poem that it’s not Lorca’s duende, not Spain’s duende, that he is working on, and substitutes his own duende, Albuquerque’s duende. The central themes of the duende are death and darkness. The principal personas conjured up by the duende themes are those who wrestled with living to such an intensity that they died relatively young. All of the above examples fit this idea, along with such personas as Zapata, Manolete, Frida Kahlo, Rimbaud, Nietzsche, James Dean, and Neal Cassady. There are also those personas with relatively lengthy lives, such as Walt Whitman, Georgia O’Keefe, Charles Bukowski, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs, who lived close in the darkness. Both types of personas are explored by Todd Moore in Southwest settings.
The artistic outlaw is separate, passionate, individualistic, independent. Externally, his life might not be that different, but internally, he lives by his own laws, and his life and art are revolutionary. Todd Moore moved from John Dillinger country to Billy the Kid country a few years ago, and this work is a unique and profound evocation of the spirit of the duende as expressed through the Southwest via Albuquerque, New Mexico. Moore’s poem is charged with the musical spirit that is so much a part of the duende, whether it is exemplified by a flamenco guitarist or an old blues singer. When this musical spirit is combined with reflections on the archetypes of death, the result is irresistible ; a metaphorical journey from the Spanish conquistadors to the Mexico of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera to a whole series of scenarios of the black sounds found in the streets of Albuquerque and the dreams of Todd Moore. Moore sings and paints a host of experiences both literary and real-life, working on the texture and symbols of the poem as if doing a sandpainting. Two symbols seem to haunt the poem throughout ; Death in a series of identities and metaphors and the phantom presence of Federico Garcia Lorca.
Moore stalks the face of death lurking behind many masks while working on his duende. Looks poets in the face working on his duende. Looks Albuquerque in the eye while working on his duende. Looks himself in the eye working on his duende. Is haunted by Mexico’s Day of the Dead while working on his duende. Moore works on his duende like Kerouac and Cassady charging into Mexico. Moore works on his duende like the New Mexico poet, Kell Robertson, drifting and wandering, riding a horse called deperation. Moore works on his duende like the blues singer Robert Johnson being pursued by the hellhound. His sandpainting quickly becomes an Indian blanket, full of layer upon layer of texture and image, then an Anasazi pot with strange geometries. Moore is giving us a true poem of the Southwest, working on his duende, full of enchiladas and the chile peppers and refried beans and the Rio Grande.
The duende is a spirit, like the blues is a spirit, like the poem is a spirit. Moore haunts us, conjuring the words and motions of the poem. It is his own private duende, which is what we want from an outlaw, and the duende is carried through his imaginary and real-life experiences which yield a kind of inner history of those living close to death and darkness. Moore reveals the secret chaos of one who hears the unspoken words, the unwritten poems. The duende is a struggle. And this poem is a stuggle with the duende, or more precisely, a struggle to find the duende. Moore finds the duende in Albuquerque, an outlaw duende that is deeply personal, a duende that walks in and out of ghost worlds, a duende that talks and dances with the dead and the living, a duende that rings with the laughter of trickster coyote, a duende in which death and life are dancing partners.
Wayne Hogan, widely published poet, man of letters, and illustrator, has graced nearly all of Kings Estate Press’s recent publications with his artwork. He lives with his charming wife, Susan, in Cookeville, Tennessee, but has been known to travel in the interest of his muses.