Random Thoughts on Art

June 24, 2008

I am sitting in Borders, reading an essay by Condaleeza Rice about Foreign Affairs, (ugh) then move on to an essay by Edward Hirsch about art and am interrupted by a strong voice of a man a table over. Not only is his voice demanding, his accent immediately catches my attention. He has one of those drawn out Southern accents, but one that you’d imagine in front of an old plantation, his white suit on, hat to the side, smoking a cigar and commenting on the grandchildren and the state of the lawn.

“I’m sure there are good people out there, I am sure,” he says.

This is after he quotes from something he is reading, to his wife. I can’t help but smile. He reminds me of certain family members who are long gone now. It reminds me of being a young girl at Easter when my mother’s family would gather around on the country club golf course after the egg hunt…the adults drinking their drinks, smoking their various tobacco products, while the mothers warn the children to please avoid getting grass stains on their nice, bright, Easter dress or their new patent leather shoes. I had the best shoes: pink patent leather penny loafer type shoes. I adored them.

I don’t know why I am writing about this man and the memories his voice recalls but frankly, I’ve been heart-heavy the past few days. For many reasons I’ve been a bit lonesome…not the kind of lonesome one has for company or a lover, not the kind where you’re actually down in spirits, but the kind where something or some event might just trigger a little reaction – tug on a small string that creates a note bareley audible that usually you don’t notice, but your attentions are more heightened, your “spiritual” ears a bit more attentive than usual. I guess it’s been like that for me for the past couple of days.

Emerson wrote in his essay on Plato that “our strength is transitional, alternating”:

The experience of poetic creativeness…is not found in staying at home, nor yet in traveling, but in transitions from one to the other, which must therefore be adroitly managed to present as much transitional surface as possible.

It is in action, in the every-day encounters with experience, that I want to move – that I wish to create. The “transitional surface” itself – perhaps that is the piece of paper (or computer screen) on which the poem is to act. Sometimes (most of the time, actually) I begin a poem without the full picture in hand. Usually, I am moved at what I encounter there (and if I am not, then it’s not a complete poem). It is as if I am working with an already existing poem, and that poem (or piece of writing) is presenting itself to me – and from there, we “move,” we “dance.” I hope, one day, to become a better writer, so much so that it is obvious, upon each new read, that there are a million different ways in which the writing can present itself — that each time someone approaches the work, it is as fresh as the moment it was created. I don’t know if I’ll ever get there…I don’t even know if that makes sense, but I think it’s something to strive for. This is why I bring up my encounter with the man here at Borders. His voice, triggering my memories, stirring some kind of spiritual soup inside myself, causing a bouquet of aromas I didn’t know existed…a once stale feeling is brought to life and knocks on various doors in memory – it’s moving. I have encountered poems (written by much more talented, mature poets) that have cause a similar chain of events. It is in those moments that I feel the depth of my own “humanity.” Not that I feel my own capacity for empathy or kindness or greatness, but that I feel just how human I am, just how connected I am to everyone else who has undoubtedly experienced similar emotions. See, this is the thing: beyond all barriers of race, gender, nationality, etc., and even beyond the limitations of subjective experience (which is a gift unto itself), human emotion has the capacity to bridge any gap, connect even the furthest two points — no matter how mathematically impossible — between to very different, independent beating hearts. This amazes me. Of course, the possibilities are endless. Think about it: there are an infinite number of memories one single poem or painting or song can recall in a person. Now, think of how many people experience the poem or painting or song and then put the number of various memories…and…well, there’s a ratio or possibility equation that exists, but I don’t recall…I did tell you about my horrid experience with math, right?

Maybe all of these musings arise from the fact that I’m missing a sort of visceral or impulsive aspect in my own life. To create something that truly “lives in the moment.” Perhaps a sort of physicality, as well – to engage with a poem, with words, with images…to feel as though a space exists in which one can escape the mundane and experience something new, something unexpected – to be greeted with something we didn’t even know existed inside of us, a sort of introduction to new (yet preexisting) states within our own self. Wouldn’t this be a type of intimacy, then, between the writer, the work, and the audience? A threesome of spirituality and intellect in artistic realms? Is this the true human connection? Because, even if the writer writes without a speific audience in mind, if they truly write for the sake of writing, even then there exists a spiritual triangular connection between the subject and it’s creator and audience. Sometimes I believe that what might even orchestrate all of these ties and bonds might be something Spiritual…a sort of collective consciounce that sets out to connect us all to one another, even in the briefest of moments. However, I do tend to be a romantic in that respect.

Rilke’s Elegies have been interesting me lately, and his ideas on time and connections particularly get me thinking about our existence – why we create – etc. He writes in Elegies:

We of the here-and-now are not for a moment satisfied in the world of time, nor are we bound in it; we are continually overflowing toward those who preceded us, toward our origin, and toward those who seemingly come after us. … We are the bees of the invisible. We wildly collect the honey of the visible, to store it in the great golden hive of the invisible…which [will] show us the work of the continual conversation of the beloved visible and tangible world into the invisible vibrations and agitations of our own nature…

When he mentions how we “wildly collect from the visible,” I believe perhaps this partly accounts for the creative impulse—to contribute to the “continual conversation.” I just felt very moved by this passage…specifically the idea of a continual conversation…because, as I was listening to that man say, with his sweet drawl, “I’m sure there are good people out there, I am sure,” my heart beat a little faster…my mind sifted quickly through the collection of memories this particular sensation and trigger lured out from behind consciousness’ doors, and I felt as though I could capture, at that moment, a feeling, an emotion. It felt as though I had walked into the beginning moments of a poem’s (or any type of artwork’s) first breaths. Maybe, just maybe one day I could tap into that well and produce the kind of work that will not only last – contributing to the “continual conversation” – but that the work would be able to re-create itself for each reader, fresh, with the same effects at calling forth emotion and romancing the invisible…because, no matter how much we avoid or deny, we will never be satisfied with time…there’s never enough of it. Our loved ones are stolen away by time (of course, this is merely an illusion…because I believe they are here), our memories fade, our bodies turn against us…but a Monet is still a Monet, a child’s fingerprint painting is still a child’s fingerprint painting – even when the child is 60, your lover’s letters still express the same sentiment, though they have long since passed – their words hovering in the cursive ink, mouth open, speaking, gathering your emotions into a basket, which needs only to be recalled…

I love you always, if that’s the case. We never lose; we always gain more in this continuation.

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