Friday, May 21, 2010

The Lie of the Art or How to Fail With Really Trying

Let’s see now--

*  Language is inadequate to Truth

*  There is probably no new Truth

*  Only a few very great writers have come near to Truth

*  Even the great ones have missed

*  The best art only implies Truth

Why should we care?  Why should we be careful?  Why not be the extraordinarily gifted monkeys we are and write willy-nilly all day long and at least have a chance that chance will be on our side?  (Given what I read that is currently taken for good poetry I’m inclined to think we’re already doing that.)

Here’s the case I make:

The inadequacy of the arts to truth is the very soil they thrive in.  As high as the bar is raised it will never be high enough and we, being who we are, will try for, must try for it.  We haven’t a choice.  By use of the carefully crafted and inspired implication we avoid the outright and specific lie.  We offer a general one.  The utmost care is taken so that we don’t damage the truth too much.  As poets aiming for truth we risk laying waste the grail by pursuing it.

Every word is a metaphor, an obfuscation of sorts.  The care we apply controls the unattainable some.  Our skill controls it some.  When we are successful we convey less untruth than is common.  It doesn’t sound like much but it is as great as it gets.

Consciousness of our certain failure should make us ever more careful to proceed with the greatest of care for in careless art, careless craft, lies the ruin of truth and you might as well be a politician and make some money.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Writer’s Block—Shmock!

I’ve been away and not writing and would like to speak of writer’s block by saying:


There will be times when you don’t write and the reasons will be legion.  I’ve been reading John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Richard Feynman’s The Meaning of it All and lots of the old and new testaments of The Bible.  I have transplanted hosta from the back to the front, trimmed the forsythia, planted a moonflower and a morning glory, advertised an electric portable three-wheeled scooter suitable of an elderly person on Craig’s List and put an old PC on Freecycle all while lamenting that I haven’t written a decent poem for months, maybe all year.  I’m not blocked.  I am busy.  I am not writing.

If you believe you are blocked then you haven’t learned to write or you’re out of practice as I am.  I return to my mantra:  If you’re going to write, then write and write a lot.  Unless you are brain dead you continue to gather what will become your writing.  Your mind never stops journaling.  I you are reading, thinking, observing anything new then your mind is expanding, lubricating itself and will deliver when it can.

Do not afford yourself the luxury of writer’s block.  There isn’t enough time.  Our art is based upon the fact that we’ll never get to the truth—that’s why we try—and there is therefore no time to waste in self-defeating lament.  As the song (Desert Pete by The Kingston Trio) says:  “Have faith my friend.  There’s water down below.”  I hasten to add that whether you know it or not, it still churns.