On the other hand, though, what emerges is a body of work. It isn’t conventional, or even graspable, and perhaps will be impermanent, but I know that it is, in fact, THE body of artistic work accomplished in my lifetime which most closely represents me. It’s also taught me the most. Once upon a time I wasn’t satisfied with that. Now, I am.
For as much as I sometimes have wished to be otherwise, I am not first and foremost a novelist or a painter, a writer of non-fiction books or a photographer or printmaker. I’m a reader, and observer, and an integrator, whose chosen form is the informal essay, illustrated with my own photographs or artwork, and whose perfect medium of expression is the blog. Being a blogger became an intrinsic part of my identity: like someone who works in watercolors or oils, I see the world and my daily life through an intimacy with this medium. It used to feel a bit weird, like constant translating; now it’s so normal I don’t even think about it, even though I’ve become a lot more choosy about what to base my posts upon. The change from pure writing to a greater focus on art has simply mirrored what’s going on in my own life, too.
Artistic creation as a radical act
The fact is that we are living in a time when the decision to be an artist, to continue to create in spite of everything that’s happening around us, IS a radical political act. This is, I feel, quite a dark time, potentially destructive to the best and most noble aspects of the human spirit. And that’s precisely why it is terribly important for artists in all disciplines to continue to create, even when it feels like there’s little market and little appreciation for our work. Just doing it, and making the difficult decision to continue to do it — to live creative lives that celebrate what life is and can be — is both defiant and affirming, and it’s crucially important. People need to know that someone they know — a neighbor, a friend, a cousin — is committed to the arts. Young people particularly need to know this.
Link roundup: Cloud Studies, Nabokov’s blues, beech trees and other curiosities
I share a lot of links on Facebook. This is some of what I’ve shared since last Monday, with the exception of links to new posts on qarrtsiluni, Moving Poems, Woodrat Photoblog, The Morning Porch, and here on VN. (Have to wonder how many of my Facebook contacts have blocked my posts by now!)
Poetry for the Masses has a new website with PDFs of recent broadsheets. These aren’t the arty kind of broadsheets that cost $40 apiece, but the true, 18th-century kind designed for mass distribution.
Cloud Studies — a sonnet sequence
Take a half-hour to listen to these extraordinary poems by Christine Klocek-Lim, Whale Sound’s most impressive audio chapbook yet. (And that’s saying a lot, because the first two also kicked ass.)
Treeblog: Festival of the Trees 56
What is it about trees that evokes such interesting responses from such a broad range of people?
New York Times: “Nabokov Theory on Polyommatus Blue Butterflies Is Vindicated” by the always wonderful Carl Zimmer. “Nabokov was right – so was Stephen Jay Gould wrong?” asks Jessica Palmer at Bioephemera. Yes, turns out he was. Which makes me happy, because Gould was a very over-rated writer and a pompous ass.
The Onion: “Republicans Vote To Repeal Obama-Backed Bill That Would Destroy Asteroid Headed For Earth”
To me, this is masterful satire not because it makes Republicans look like bigger fools than Democrats, but because it so effectively skewers the absurd and narcissistic parochialism of American politics.
Voice Alpha: “To read or to recite?”
My simple question about public poetry performance theory elicits a number of quite varied and passionate responses.
the cassandra pages: “Down for the Gender Count…or is it Up?”
Beth Adams finds that qarrtsiluni’s gender gap continues to widen. She quotes me on the importance of having a schlong.
Poetry Daily: “Naked I Come, Naked I Go,” by Marilyn Chin
If you’re a fan of the late poet Ai, check out this wonderful tribute/imitation by Marilyn Chin. (The last lines are a reference to the fact that Ai never learned to drive.)
Marcia Bonta: “The Beautiful Beech”
My mom’s monthly nature column. For once, she picked a subject I had no trouble illustrating with my own photos — one of my favorite trees.
(watch on YouTube)
The ultimate annoying little sister (brother?). This is one of the latest captures from the den cam in Minnesota, showing an unusual multi-age black bear family (Hope is one year old, her siblings just a couple weeks old).
Writing Our Way Home is a new online community I’ve joined. Founded by British blogger, novelist, and writing coach Fiona Robyn and her fiance Kaspalita, a Buddhist priest and the resident tech guru, it’s for people interested in writing with attention, especially in the form they call “small stones“: “short pieces of writing that precisely capture a fully-engaged moment.” Since this is obviously something I’ve been trying to do at The Morning Porch for quite some time, I couldn’t not join, despite feeling already a bit over-committed online. The site uses Ning, and has most of the same functionality as Facebook, only easier to figure out: groups, forums, personal pages with walls (and blogs), etc. Do join if this interests you. I’ve been interacting with Fiona online for quite a few years, and she even edited an issue of qarrtsiluni once for us — the only solo editor ever to do so — so I am fairly confident in predicting that this community will still be around five years from now if she has anything to do with it.
Woodrat Podcast 33: Rachel Barenblat and Beth Adams on Torah Poems
A three-way conversation with the newly ordained Velveteen Rabbi, Rachel Barenblat, and Beth Adams, publisher of Rachel’s 70 Faces: Torah Poems. Rachel reads five poems from her new book plus a brand new Torah poem, and we talk about Biblical interpretation, Middle East politics, literary micropublishing, and more. (Although today is Tu BiShvat, the New Year of the Trees, I stupidly forget to bring that up. But you can read and listen to Rachel’s poem for the day on her blog.)
Podcast feed | Subscribe in iTunes
Theme music: “Le grand sequoia,” by Innvivo (Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike licence)
Woodrat Podcast 2: Elizabeth Adams and “Odes to Tools”
A conversation with Beth Adams about books, publishing, and music
In which I am flabbergasted by Beth’s secret plot to rescue some of my poems from a purely digital existence and give them a better life in print north of the border. We talk about the pitfalls of self-plagiarism, what writers can learn from musicians, the ins and outs of small publishing, and what the hell is up with chalk-line reels that aren’t blue. I read a few of the odes, and manage a plausible-sounding explanation for what I was thinking when I came up with the series.
- Phoenicia Publishing
- the cassandra pages (Beth’s blog)
- Odes to Tools series on Via Negativa
- Why I copyleft my writing
- Innvivo on Jamendo.com (this week’s theme music)