Sunday, September 29, 2013

Formed to Fail and Failure Alive - A Panoply

I feel chastened by art, not so much inspired. I do not have a lot of energy - perhaps not that critical sufficiency - to respond in kind or react. Or, to do so self-consciously.

The older artist (at 54 I qualify, I trust) is wise to be less self-aware than self-unaware. To be self-aware as a white, middle-aged, middle class worker-bee is not the sort of thing that inspires mind-bending collateral. No, I think that such as I am do better, if one wants to provide service, to keep our eyes away from US to OTHERS, whatever the other is, in that place and time. We, then, can lend a particular voice in saying YES. A voice certain others (like ourselves, but utterly self-inclined) might not have expected to hear.

But, guess what. I am wrong. Do you know that? Do you know, that any successful artist is concerned first and foremost with advancing their agenda? The emphasis-claims vary from time to time, from overt to inferential (our time is heavy on the inferential - getting arrested at a bank sells books, etc.)

Did you know that I am always wrong when it comes to poetry? It's true! I know this sounds like bragging, or some kind of weird psych-out, but it's not. I simply have a kind of interior divining rod for finding exactly the wrong choice to make. Now, this confession (hah. I've said this a dozen times in these blogs, more or less) may sound like I have given up. But nothing could be further from the truth - because I have nothing to give up in the first place! I have no reputation, no publisher, no critical success.

Strangely - and really - but this is a kind of reiteration, kind of like saying NORTH as the needle of one's interior compass points that way - as time goes on, I am more and more heartsick at my failures in poetry. I am honestly sad and feel I have made terrible errors. People ask me about my work. I say what I do, that I have published 14 books through and I say, I do not recommend this course to anyone. I am unread, unreviewed, and sad beyond description.

HARDLY the sort of image a while middle-aged middle-class male should present. Oh, and I'm Catholic. What a nightmare!

Now, having said all this (here's where the Catholic bit comes in maybe - and helps to explain why I became Catholic at the age of 53) I really, in my heart, do not care about what happens to me or my work. However idiotic I am or my choices have been (including certain stupid horrible oblivious neglectful behavior in my personal life, thank you very much) I am simply and cleansingly overjoyed at the work I see in the world - what my wife (Hello!) does, and what my friends do. But then, what they have done is quite significant. I have before me the significant accomplishments of friends, including, but not limited to: national awards, blisteringly favorable reviews, increasing reputations, contracts with strong publishers, and, let's be honest, books that matter.

So, you might ask - if you have made it this far, for which I am grateful, where does the Catholic thing come in? Let me try to explain.

However I am undone, it is because of who I am. However I might succeed, providing insight, provoking ideas, a response either for or against, such is the will of the Lord. I have nothing, nothing, nothing that is mine, except my failures. As a Catholic, I know not to take such failures as a...terminal point. No, they are nonetheless critical points of confession of culpability. Of responsibility. In other words, I can never complain. I have no grounds for saying that things should have turned out otherwise. I simply do not have that option - which is a tremendous relief!

Instead, I have the privilege of saying, This was my choice, Lord, do with me as you will.

Of course, a Catholic (I say "Catholic" but the fact is most Christians roll this way)  is obliged to turn out in this manner with everything. Even in these statements I am obliged now to acknowledge that I have served myself, my personal ambitions, my personal wishes. There is nothing in any declaration of the meaning or worth of one's artistic production to suggest otherwise.

It makes little sense, the dirt being shoveled on one's face, to color the sky.

I made choices just today to economize. To give away clothing and sell books, such as have stood on my shelves for years for the sole purpose of standing as testament to my learning. And so I divest myself of such false doctrines. I am reminded of Wittgenstein (Lord, I am no Wittgenstein) who slept on a cot and whose bookshelf held a bible and a couple other volumes.

I could write more, but do I have more to say? We have had a lot of rain today, even be Portland standards. I spent some of the day stuffing clothes into bags, boxing books, and watching some football. I love football. I love it in part for the drama, the human weight, of each and every play.

I must be tired. The world is turning over again, It does this every day.

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