the gift of the unexpected

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So one of my favorite writing teachers ever, was (is – he is still teaching, I just haven’t had the pleasure of sitting in his classroom for many years now) a writer by the name of Jim Krusoe.  And the greatest gift I ever received from him was this:

We were talking one day about poetry, and he told me that he had started his writing career as a poet, and that for him, the single most important element of creating powerful, dynamic, engaging poetry was infusing it, or interrupting it, with the Unexpected.  That moment when the poem jumps into the unknown – bringing the reader into the wide open and unexpected territory of..surprise, delight, mystery…who knows.  (For me, this is equally important in Literary Fiction…to allow the portrait of humanity to catch in our chest as we witness a glimpse of something unique and peculiar; something familiar, in an unexpected way.  I dare say, that this swerve is, sadly, increasingly absent in our literature). 

The Unexpected, acts as a disruption…the thing that pushes us off our pre-determined course and lands us smack dab in the middle of uncertainty.  And oh, how we love the un-stable ground of uncertainty!  (haha) Such a fertile soil for all aspects of life though, yes?  What happens to us, the observer, when suddenly we find ourselves where we didn’t expect?  I believe it opens us up to thought, to question, to intrigue…bringing us face to face with a virtual window into the deepest part of ourselves as we ponder where we are, how we feel, and why…and what we might do about it.  

But I do remember thinking, as Krusoe said that  – Aha!  That is it!  The “unexpected” is what delights me about all great writing…indeed, all great art. ( I’m listening to Leonard Cohen as I write this, and what a perfect example of this delight of the unexpected :) )   Art, in all its forms, carries within its fabric the ability to shine a light into our deepest folds …allowing us to gain a deeper foothold on our own existence, which, in turn, gives us a broader understanding of “other”, as a whole.

I think this is why we yearn for art.  For its ability to penetrate into our darkest self, allowing us to begin to understand what is there.  Perhaps it isn’t always what we wish to see…but no matter.  Art is the crack that allows the light in…(as dear Leonard Cohen reminds us) and this crack allows us to deepen our human experience; indeed our humanity.  It is our survival – the blood, the passion, the roar inside of us that keeps us pulsing and alive.  If we can find the courage to run toward our roar, we will find the unexpected waiting to reveal to us all kinds of hidden treasures.   Yes, this can be easier said than done – I am well aware.  Especially within the culture and society we have constructed, which places such high value on the “face value” of things, rather than the duende (as the poet Lorca wrote about: the soul, the heightened state of emotion, and expression of authenticity; the grist of living and loving, the blood, sweat and tears of giving and being alive.  In Lorca’s words:

“All that has dark sounds has duende. These dark sounds are the mystery, the roots thrusting into the fertile loam known to all of us, ignored by all of us, but from which we get what is real in art. . . .”Thus duende is a power and not a behavior, it is a struggle and not a concept. I have heard an old master guitarist say: ‘Duende is not in the throat; duende surges up from the soles of the feet.’ It is a creative action.”

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Art demands that we face ourselves.  And for this reason alone, I contend that we would be better tended as a culture if we were all to rise to the challenge of finding out what is inside our “being” and creating works of art from this mighty spring. Imagine the conversations we would have!  Art exists in the depths, not on the surface – so plumb deep, do not be afraid. Celebrate your treasures; your Duende.  And cultivate it into living, captivating, unexpected gifts of Art.  



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