The happy artist?

It’s my first day back at work today. And usually the first day is OK. I’ve carried over a calm that I always hope will last, but as the weeks go on something usually starts building and a big fat invisible elephant likes to sit on my chest and get in the way. I had a great, full day yesterday. I woke up late and pat didn’t have to work until 2:30 and I went with him to get his haircut – it’s still longer than mine – and then we got lunch and went to the store for our Valentine’s Day dinner food and I bought some books of poetry: Stephen Dunn and Allen Ginsberg. I was looking for Eileen Myles, but the poetry section at the bookstore sucks here, so I picked up some guys instead.

I was driving and thinking yesterday about living an artist’s life. I think that’s maybe what Eileen Myles’ book Inferno makes you think about because she lived in NYC and “lived” an artistic life? Sex and drugs and poetry and meeting poets and reading poetry and sometimes writing and sometimes not and seeing some of her friends die and sometimes teaching and going to parties and dropping names and being a part of some odd community where every one has sex with every one all the while writing poetry.

In a part of the book she said writing poetry was easy which I don’t think is very true, but maybe she meant something else by it, maybe I need to lighten up on my poems and not expect so much from them. Maybe I need to let them be what they are going to be. Maybe I am pushing them too hard.

But she also says really amazing things about writing. That a poem is “giving the sweetest documentation of what anything is ever becoming. So a book of poems for instance over a short period of time, a year or two explains the bhav (intense spiritual emotion of sorts) of that period and the poet approaches the explanation through form, she invents one that is most economically true to how reality occurred to her at that time.”  I like the idea about form. I always worry about form and that I don’t know enough about it and that I’m doing things all wrong. I like the idea that form is more what you make it, it’s more internal?

I suppose what it made me realize is there is no right or wrong way to live an artistic life. If we are artists, if we are observers, if we are writers or painters we keep our pockets deep and our baskets deep and we collect what we can and we see what we see and no matter how we live our lives we will always find and collect the pieces we need to create. We experience as we experience and we grow as we grow. Why chase a certain lifestyle unless it makes us happy? There are happy artists in the world aren’t there? Or is it our chronic need for more that keeps us collecting?

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2 Responses to The happy artist?

  1. Thank you for more information about Eileen Myles. Reading what you extracted about form and a “writer’s life” allowed an opening-up for me. I think it comes down to the fact that someone has to fix dinner, do the laundry, produce some sort of income, care for a child. I have always felt that women were expected to create art around their other responsibilities. And they have done so. A writer’s life is a luxury, if not a myth. The Beats and Bohemians in general have done so much to romanticize art, living for art. Real life is different. I think those who produce meaningful work around and between other tasks are the truly inventive.

    I do respond to the notion that form is what we make it, and that makes sense. I know I need to read INFERNO or at least something by Myles. It sounds as though she makes some things clearer to you, too. xo

    • rachvb says:

      I’ve internally debated the life of art vs. the real world. I remember a conversation with an old writing teacher about a year ago and she asked if I was able to support myself, she asked me not to be poor and starving – the starving artist, but to take care of myself and be ok with that. It’s hard because ‘real life’ can get in the way of art life, but then real life is how we escape art when we need air and it’s how we collect. I suppose it’s all in the balance. I don’t even have children yet and the idea of working, writing, taking care of children and all the other responsibilities that might arise seems overwhelming. How can we do it all? And sadly, it’s the art that suffers when we are overwhelmed or tired by the real world.

      Inferno was full of gems. It was also wordy and needed some editing, I think and it took me a while to get through it. But the last chapters where she talks about writing were pretty incredible to me. I’d like to read some of her poetry to see how the two line up – I suppose her life and her art.

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