Tuesday, 16 July 2013

settling back into the muck of your own mind

'All artists work to acquire and perfect the tools of their craft, and all art involves evaluation, clarification, and revision. But these are secondary tasks. They cannot begin (sometimes they must not begin) until the materia, the body of the work, is on the page or on the canvas.... Premature evaluation cuts off the flow. The imagination does not barter its 'engendering images'. In the beginning we have no choice but to accept what has come to us, hoping that the cinders some forest spirit saw fit to bestow may turn to gold when we have carried them back to the hearth. Allen Ginsberg has been our consistent spokesman for that phase of the work in which the artist lays evaluation aside so that the gift may come forward:

   The parts that embarrass you the most are usually the most interesting poetically, are usually the most naked of all, the rawest, the goofiest, the strangest and most eccentric and at the same time, most representative, most universal... That was something I learned from Kerouac, which was that spontaneous writing could be embarrassing... The cure for that is to write things down which you will not publish and which you won't show people. To write secretly... so you can actually be free to say anything you want...
    It means abandoning being a poet, abandoning your careerism, abandoning even the idea of writing any poetry, really abandoning, giving up as hopeless - abandoning the possibility of really expressing yourself to the nations of the world. Abandoning the idea of being a prophet with honor and dignity, and abandoning the glory of poetry and just settling down to the muck of your own mind... You really have to make a resolution just to write for yourself... in the sense of not writing to impress yourself, but just writing what your self is saying.'

Having accepted what has been given to him - either in the sense of inspiration or in the sense of talent - the artist often feels compelled, feels the desire, to make the work and offer it to an audience. The gift must stay in motion. 'Publish or perish' is an internal demand of the creative spirit, one that we learn from the gift itself, not from any school or church... May Sarton writes...'The gift turned inward, unable to be given, becomes a heavy burden, even sometimes a kind of poison. It is as if the flow of life were backed up''

Lewis Hyde, The Gift, 2006, 147-148


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