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Duende and Modernism: Hart Crane's and Federico García Lorca's Variations on Rhythm and Sound

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This essay proposes a reassessment of the role that the encounter between music and poetry played in the development of modernism. It takes as its point of departure the dialogue between the languages of music and song, in poetry volumes by Spanish author Federico García Lorca (1898-1936) and by the American Hart Crane (1899-1932), focusing in particular on Poema del cante jondo (Poem of the Deep Song; 1921, publ. 1931) and The Bridge (1930). We situate the complex notion of “duende” (akin to the notion of “soul”) in the Spanish artistic milieu in the debates of the 1920s and 30s about the relationship between the poetic and the musical.

The engagement of both Crane and Lorca with popular forms of music and their understanding of “duende”—associated by some scholars with jazz—help us reimagine the way in which the aural/oral dimension of lyric richly inflects modernist poetry.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2010

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