Recently I wrote a post entitled The Importance of Being an Educated Reader. It went over relatively well, however in light of certain works of ‘art’ I have observed of late, I felt obligated to follow that up with the opposition. Therefore I present the importance of being an educated writer.
Let’s look back in time for a moment, let us consider a few well-known artists. There was a time when a poet was considered less than a peasant, in fact, for him not to starve on the street, he could only hope some well-to-do person would find his work and appreciate it. Back then, art had to be something spectacular. Consider Shakespeare, or Rembrandt. In today’s society, we encourage all forms of art, which I agree with completely. However, it must still be definable as art. I go back to the metaphor of the teacher pushing a pencil through a sheet of blank paper, claiming “This too, can be art.” That is a complete disgrace to every artist everywhere. Also, I recently mentioned in another post how praising an artist may be detrimental to their work. (Ego is a terribly powerful thing.) Today we can fart in a jar and pridefully proclaim it art. “I created this!” Well, that’s something, I suppose. What exactly? It’s still just a fart in a jar. It is empty, worthless, and leaves you with nothing but a bad taste in your mouth. This will kill all art.
We as artists have a responsibility regarding what we claim as art. What would Rembrandt say if he saw some of what passes for modern art? He would be appalled, and rightfully so. Why? Because he loved art. I adore poetry, as many of you know. However, if I were to write ignoble, trite little nothings and call it poetry, wouldn’t that be detrimental to every poet out there? Be ashamed of yourself, you know better. This is not to say not to try. I believe we should all try. But seriously, if you cannot put enough effort into a thing to make sure it actually is something, you’re wasting everyone’s time. I have seen ‘poets’ use words incorrectly, then later explain that they didn’t know the definition of the word, they merely liked the way it sounded, and attempt to use this as an excuse for it being placed so incorrectly in a sentence. We love to claim artistic license, and I will always champion for artistic license. Still, if I were to write some nonsensical bit of phrasing, completely ignorant of the definitions of my chosen words, and I was called on it, I would have no choice but to hang my head in shame and agree that yes, I failed miserably. Much of modern poetry is the same, only farts in a jar. Bye the see.
I can bee
harken a tomato tree,
What the crap is that? Look, I used words and they rhyme, that’s poetry, right? NO. Bad poet! That is nonsense. I know this because I just wrote it. It makes no sense, it is in improper English, word usage and spelling are atrocious, this is not poetry! This is a fart in a jar. This is a disgrace. Now my issue here is only in part with the writer. As a reader, we must be critical. Let’s face it, all beginning poets have some distance to go before they produce quality. I look to my earliest works and groan, as many of us do. If you haven’t progressed or evolved at all, you may be doing something wrong. As the critic, or the reader, don’t encourage this drivel, call it what it is and encourage them to do better. If they honestly believe they’re doing well, why would they change a thing? Take responsibility for your actions. If you can’t help in any way other than to say ‘Oh, it’s wonderful!’ when you know better, then don’t say anything! That speaks volumes. I remember sending off pieces to more advanced poets and requesting feedback, knowing that if it was good, they would respond. When the response was that yes, they read my piece but nothing more, I knew it was a flop. This forced me to do better. If I was given rave reviews, how would I know where and when I failed to hit the mark?
Today we are so careful not to offend others, that we offend ourselves and our art. This does no one any favors. Be critical, seek improvement. Otherwise, we doom the very art we claim to love. The best advice I could give to an aspiring artist is to observe the work of several other artists within that particular field. As a poet, read as much poetry as you can get your hands on. Read a variety of poetry. Vary the style, theme, era published, you want as wide of a variety as you can get. Read everything from Bukowski to Blake, Cohen to Cummings, etc. Then read amateur work, see what you appreciate and what you don’t. Try to understand the appeal of each, their strengths and weaknesses. Any art requires dedication and work, it is never as simple as producing a thing. If we keep this in mind when we encourage new artists, we just may see better art produced.