Posted by: birdmaddgirl | 28 February 2013

Make Art

once upon a time at a writers’ seminar far, far away, a man – who is incidentally probably the most famous living american to make a living off poetry – said that the inspiration for writing arises out of jealousy and competitiveness. this successful man said essentially that the drive to write, to make art, directly ties to experiencing art and thinking not only ‘i can do that,’ but ‘i can do that better.’

as you, dear reader, may have already predicted, this haunts me. why would he say such a terrible thing? and i do judge this statement and find it terrible. this is a view of art that had never occurred to me (and perhaps for the better, because i have neither the self-confidence nor the ego to believe that i can stand above the writers i admire). and i think that the comment persists in my skull because it was not qualified. he did not say ‘this is why i write.’ he said ‘this is why writers write,’ implicitly if not explicitly by failing to qualify. cue my violent negation and judginess.

so why do i write? why poetry? why make art? everyone who takes art seriously struggles with their own versions of these questions. i have known as long as i have been writing that i can’t feed myself on poetry (i am reminded of lines from a great translation by magnus krynski and robert maguire of tadeusz rozewicz’s beautiful “draft of a modern love poem:” the most tangible / description of bread / is a description of hunger). why devote so much time and energy to this thing that will not make me a living and that is not valued even as a leisure pursuit by the society i live in?

inspiring street art in valparaiso, chile.

jealousy and competitiveness would, quite simply, not get me to create. and when i read a beautiful poem – or novel, or watch a meaningful play, or see a moving painting or photograph, or hear  stirring music, etc, etc, etc – i am often inspired. my contact and consequence project with alicia is all about that very thing (ps, her latest image is just wow). i am inspired to make because of the joy i find in someone’s perspective of the world – even something stark and challenging, or ugly and menacing, or a thousand other things. it brings me great joy that someone could communicate that slice of existence. and i want to be part of that conversation, even if i only end up talking to myself in the corner.

the stakes to me seem much higher than mr. poet appears to indicate. much bigger than one little me in one small instant of everything. when i read, say, “beowulf” or the sound and the fury, there is no doubt in my mind that i could not do that better. but i am swept into the rhythm of the alliterative epic or immersed in the textured plot and i think: i want to be part of that tradition. and maybe if i work hard enough, i may write something that will inspire someone else to make art.



  1. “I may writing something that will inspire someone else to make are.” Love it.

    I had an experience of inspiring someone to take a chance on art, and it was illuminating and exciting. I’m not a teacher-type but, every once in a while, I get a taste of why people do it.

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