Monday, January 24, 2011

Not really new

Connotation Press republished the interview they did and pieces they took last year. I thought I'd seen them before, and I had. Of course, that makes the bio of me one year old, but that's okay. It's good to maybe get a few more people to read these.

Loving Nicholson Baker's The Anthologist. It's so much fun, I'm forcing John to listen to bits read aloud.

BTW, walking more than a mile, with a steep uphill finish, then hot bath and a glass of port before bed = a very good night's sleep. That and the great weather (yeah I know you Back Easterners are suffering, but it's positively spring here), has impelled me into a decent mood, for a change. But it's tenuous. Okay, I expected that rejection, but still.

Something good needed here, poetry gods. Small, but good.

Did yoga this morning and will tackle the back yard jungle this afternoon. It's very funny to do upward dog face to face with my doggie.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Interim post

Okay, this isn't a real post, just an interim post to say that I know it's about time I write something here, and I plan to real soon. I've been on a reading binge, reading actual novels, some good stuff (Lorrie Moore: wow!), some jes' plain escapism (mystery novels). I haven't been able to read like this in years, and it's no doubt a measure of how much I need to escape my life that this means of travel is open to me once more. Well, it's better than booze and dope, no?

Though many would drool over my present situation: gorgeous weather, sunny and 60s, no bloomin' work, no prospect of any. Will do more revision tomorrow and work in the garden. Looks like hell back there. And read some more.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Not being objective

Again, I don't know what I'm going to blog about, will just go for it.  Last night, I could not sleep. I thought, my bones feel like lead, heavy and poisonous. I was not dead tired, rather, alive. I felt the weight of gravity. Life sitting on my chest.

I've been thinking of my post below, on Art, and how stupid it must sound — earnest and trying, but stupid still. I'm terrible at argument. It always seemed to me outrageous that debates would be scored on how well the persons argued, not on merit, who was right.

When I was a girl, my brother and father used to goad me into argument. They would say such things as "no woman was ever a great artist."  I would lose my argument (they said) by getting emotional. It was fun for them, watching me turn red and stomp away in tears (always tears).

In any case, if I really held to what I say, I would post a link to the blog post below on Facebook, so people would read the damn thing, and we could have a conversation. But I don't know. I'm afraid to.

Do you think that all art is subjective? A friend posts he is surprised when his work is turned down, because he likes it. I'm rather surprised when mine is picked up. I like mine too. A book catalog arrived in today's mail. Nicely done. One could definitely do worse than be in their stable. Do I think the samples they printed therein were heavenly, way out of reach? Not at all. They were okay.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Art or Not

In this first post of the year, I want to respond to two recent conversations about Art. I've been thinking of doing this for a while, but have not really planned what I'm going to say, because the subject is so overwhelming. I'm no expert, no scholar. But I want to discuss this here because I find myself unable to, in conversation; the only way I know how to think this out is by writing it.

Both conversations, basically, argue for Art that is easy — not easy to create, oh no, but easy to comprehend, to understand. In one, the person making the claim said that what Jackson Pollock did is not Art. In the second conversation (we were talking about the pretensions of much of the art world and of a fun movie called "(Untitled)" that pokes fun at those pretensions) the claim was made that what Andy Warhol did is not Art. [Sidenote: for Robert Thomas's take on this subject and comparisons with poetry and its pretensions, see his post on an earlier incarnation of this blog at]

I am, for the sake of this post, including, in my definition of Art, poetry and other literary genres, music, dance, photography, film, and so forth. It is my opinion that Art is nurtured in the thin air of the mountain at the tree line. Below this line, all the trees are green; the Art that everyone likes grows here. And above, the air is so thin that maybe only the gallery owners, the publishers, the gatekeepers asseverate that Art can live there. But at the tree line, well, it's where the strange twisted thoughts take root, some to live and some to perish. Beethoven's work was once considered abominable. The Impressionists, with their lovely light-enfused happily mass produced canvasses that are now dwell over the couch in your in-laws' living room — they were once considered ugly and strange, Not Art.

But I think by the time that piece is selected to match the color scheme of the in-laws' couch and walls, it's gone from Not Art through Art and back to Not Art again. It's pretty. It's decorative. It doesn't bother anyone. It's not Art.

Roberta Smith, discussing her favorite paintings in the NY Times the other day (December 30, 2010) said it well: "Paintings, like poetry or music, are essential nutrients that help people sustain healthy lives. They’re not recreational pleasures or sidelines. They are tools that help us grasp the diversity of the world and its history, and explore the emotional capacities with which we navigate that world. They illuminate, they humble, they nurture, they inspire. They teach us to use our eyes and to know ourselves by knowing others." Well, I agree with this. I agree with Picasso who said (paraphrased)  that the artist must rouse you from your waking sleep.

It's the same with poetry, with music. I do not get quite a lot, most, in fact, contemporary classical music or, on the other end of the spectrum, the work that's called hip-hop. But I know it can be Art. Does that mean I have to like it or listen to it? Or, in the case of poetry, practice Erasures or Flarf? As Matisse said (paraphrased) that is a country where I cannot go. But all the same, it is there.

Do you trust your emotions? If it brings a tear, does that tell you it's the real thing? You're better than I, then, because the Olympic torch brings a tear to my eye and a lump to the throat. That doesn't make it Art. 

I guess I'm willing to give the artist the benefit of the doubt. I know that that which grows on the tree line may be, eventually, the classic, the piece that will make someone nod and know, finally see or hear or understand. The Emperor's new clothes? Perhaps. But there is a difference between being close minded and being sheep. 

I will have my opinions. But I know I've learned to like — to love — what I once turned my nose up at before.

BTW, I hope to get some comments here. Let's have a conversation!