Sunday, July 28, 2013

to consecrate yourself to the daily task of art

We work in the dark—we do what we can—we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.

- Henry James, from "The Middle Years"

{read an essay by Brian Morton which contextualizes these lines here}

{from the essay by Brian Morton: "Whatever you decide to call it, the ability to consecrate yourself to the daily task of art isn’t rooted in madness. As James knew, as Dencombe knew, it’s rooted in sanity. The “Middle Years” is a story about the passionate sanity of the artist. It’s a story about the sanity of art."}

Again, notes to myself here on the blog. Things I need to remind myself, continually, ongoing. This passionate sanity, the need to give what we have, though we work in the dark. And the holiness of that. The beauty of answering that calling.

There is a letter that Keats writes to Shelley where he talks about his furled wings. I read Keats's letters ages ago, but was thinking about them again when I came across this in an interview with the poet Philip Levine (from Don't Ask). Levine says,

"That a poem is not a gimmick, a formula, and each poem is a new beginning, and often - as Keats knew as a boy wonder - you have to sit with your wings furled and wait for the moment to fly. That can be awfully tough."  

It's a funny, irreverent interview. Levine is impatient, funny, a little pissed off, a little brash. He's rolling his eyes at a few points, must be.

The interviewer asks, "You think we're in the dark" and Levine replies, "Yes, but it's light enough."

It's true, isn't it? We work in the dark, but it's light enough. Our wings will unfurl in good time. But by god, yes, it's awfully tough.

A bit later in the interview, Levine says, "I invent my life every day, except for the lazy days when I let the weather call the shots. I'm not afraid to fail. I've failed at so many things, I suppose damned near everything, and it's not tragic. I may finally be a flop as a poet. The year after I die someone will say, "That guy Levine spent fifty years trying to be a poet, and he never got two lines to be happy together." That may be the truth. But there will be several other truths."

Definitely not a flop, I think we can say that now about Levine.

Yesterday afternoon, a cleansing and fresh rainfall, the sort where the rain comes down straight and strong, but not violently so. The sort of rain that is followed by a wonderful, soothing grey, and then sudden sunshine.

And yes, the world is fascinating.

Give what you can.

(Consecrate yourself to the daily task of art).

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