Thursday, July 28, 2011

Writing # 1

I finished Long Quiet Highway. A good book. Now I have started Writing Down the Bones. Like Julia Cameron, Natalie Goldberg sees writing as therapy or self-actualization or meditation practice, which I do not.

It can be. No question. But that isn't what it is for me. For me, the important part of writing is the work itself. I am an artist. I make art.

I started mulling over my idea of being an artist. First of all, you are not likely to be a Zen master, at least in the west. My ideas of art and the artist come from the Romantic tradition: the solitary genius, who gives all for art like van Gogh. The rebel, like Byron who died in the Greek revolution against the Ottoman Empire.
The mountains look on Marathon---
And Marathon looks on the sea;
And musing there an hour alone,
I dream'd that Greece might yet be free
For, standing on the Persians' grave,
I could not deem myself a slave.

Shelly writing, "Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world."

Shelley and Byron and Mary Shelley wrote in the shadow of the French Revolution. van Gogh is much later. His life is closer to the Bohemian and High Modernist ideas of art and the artist: the poet starving in a garret, Proust writing A la Recherche du Temps Perdu in a cork-lined room. There is a shift away from politics in the High Modern idea of art, which is why you can have major artists with lousy, right-wing politics. High Modernism is about art for the sake of art, pushing the limits of art, creating something genuinely new and individual. As archie the cockroach says:
expression is the need of my soul
i was once a vers libre bard
but i died and my soul went into the body of a cockroach
it has given me a new outlook upon life
i see things from the under side now
thank you for the apple peelings in the wastepaper basket
but your paste is getting so stale i cant eat it

archie is both a mocking of the idea of the solitary genius and a straight up, sympathetic portrayal of a starving artist, who is obsessed with his art.
boss i am disappointed in
some of your readers they
are always asking how does
archy work the shift so as to get a
new line or how does archy do
this or do that they
are always interested in technical
details when the main question is
whether the stuff is
literature or not


Blogger Tallgeese said...

This is quite a hoot. Unlike the High Modernists, those of us who do technical writing such as grants are never far from self-awareness of our roach-like bottom feeding species-being.

To go from the sublime to the ridiculous, may I recommend the Doctor Who episode "Vincent and the Doctor"? It is very moving, and an homage to the days when SF programs had some role in the education of the masses about science and the humanities.

7:29 AM  
Blogger Eleanor said...

archie is a great representation of the writer: both the indomitable artist and the eater of apple peelings. A wonderful character. Puccini's La Boheme done with insects, alley cats and rats.

7:35 AM  

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