I watched the John Cougar Mellencamp film Plain Spoken recently, and among the many interesting things he said in it was this:
True art is always a surprise. It’s not constructed. If it doesn’t surprise the person that’s writing it, it’s not going to surprise the person that’s listening. Art always has to be a surprise.
I don’t think he was at all undermining craft, because he emphasises craft throughout the film, but saying there must be something, at some point in the process of creating, that jumps out and surprises you. Otherwise the song, or poem, or whatever it is is predictable and lifeless. This echoes what Robert Frost said:
No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.
It also highlights something I need to work on: letting go of control (which usually has to do with fear) and letting a poem (or God, or both) lead me more.
I don’t know the latter part of this by experience, but I suspect it to be true:
The downside of immersing yourself in the best art you can find is you think, how will I ever get there? The upside is, you’re far more likely to get there—or close to there—if you do.
This seems appropriate after this morning’s post:
Entertainment gives you a predictable pleasure. Art… leads to transformation.—Makoto Fujimura, via Sonicbids
I’m tired of the noise in the world—online, in particular. And I’m tired of the noise in my head. That’s why, more and more, I’m turning to poetry.
I want a quiet place to feel something, to be moved.
I want to savour words, not absorb them like machine-gun fire.
I want to be awakened and surprised again.
I want a new way to meet with God.
I want to be changed.
I want art. And I want to make it too.
That’s why, after eight years of writing (mostly) prose online, I’ve decided to focus on poetry.
I’m still very new to it, so I don’t know whether I can actually become a respectable poet, but I’m going to try. It might take a while.
I don’t have any new poems lined up just yet, so I might republish a few of my existing ones. I hope you enjoy them.
Image: ‘The Weeders’ by Jules Breton