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Don’t Take Away the Duende

Elaine Nadal

In a time when spectacle and instant gratification are often rewarded and valued, it becomes challenging for an artist not to experience disenchantment, discouragement, and a loss of identity. Add the waiting for responses from publishers, the lagging process of publication, the rejections, and demands of the business side of creating art, and you get this:

Photo by Frederick Hashemian

Yes. A total loss of your branches, your roots, your tree. Your passion dwindles with the expectations to follow trends. And often, authenticity, fulfillment, and enjoyment are sacrificed. It is a paradox, an ugly truth. An artist is often told to understand what’s popular, what’s selling, in order to find success, thus undermining the power of the art itself to be unique, to transform and transcend. I have received much advice about writing and creating: read a lot, write as much as possible, edit your work, be part of the community, and observe your surroundings. I couldn’t agree more. However, I must add that not often have I been told to have fun and cherish the duende within you. It is the spark that goes beyond artifice, that says “screw it” to superficiality and looks beyond outward appearance. It is to understand the butterfly and the cocoon from which it came. So, my advice for my wonderful fellow artists:

Don’t Take Away the Duende

Let him split a stone,

eat with his bare hands,

ride a motorcycle with his lover

on the boardwalk.


Don’t hide him inside a cocoon.

Let him fight with the moon,

break the day and fix it again

with a box of chocolates shaped like pears

or flowers, blue like an unstable sea.


Don’t let him just wet the surface.

Let him penetrate, reach the pores.

Skin to skin. Mind and soul.

Become one with him, equally yoked,

till he takes your breath away.

There’s no other way to make art. 

Elaine Nadal is the author of two poetry chapbooks: When and Sweat, Dance, Sing, Cut, published by Finishing Line Press. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in several journals and anthologies. Nadal has shared her work at many venues and is a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee. Also, she has delivered a TEDx talk on hope, poetry, and music. 

Instagram: @elaine_nadal

TEDx talk: