The reality of art
After the long ride from Secaucus -- where we had breakfast (and I had too many cups of coffee), I was more interested in peeing than in poetry when we arrived, leaving Sharon off at the Concert Tent to catch Robert Pinsky (her hero) lecture on putting his book, "Jersey Rain" to music.
We had arrived too late to catch most of what he said, and after my slow stroll back from the public toilet, I caught a pitance of Pinsky's talk, although Sharon glowed saying: "even listen to as little as that, I got something out of it."
More than once I had encouraged Sharon to take up literary courses at the local college, rather than poetry workshops in New York. The first -- if the professor was any good -- exposed you to the best of writers. The second exposed you to a select group's opinion of what is good, which might or might not be reliable.
While I distrusted colleges as a supportive institution for artists -- believing those who relied too heavily on degrees in arts and literature often looked upon creation as an academic exercise -- I believed people needed some exposure, the way they might to certain bacteria, in order to build up an immunity. John Gardner called institutionally depended writers affected. I agreed with him.
This inevitably leads to the question of what Art is all about.
I have an extreme dislike of art about art. I do not enjoy films about film-makers, plays about playwrights, poems about poets or creating poems, fiction about writing fiction.
Many people -- particularly those bound to an institution -- have informed me that all writing is about writing really. I believe it should serve a more noble purpose. To me, art of any sort needs a subject based in the real world. In this, I am a throw back to the 19th century in believing I can change the world with my art.
Art must be about something real: a person, place or idea. For an artist to lock him or herself up in an ivory tower voids any chance of touching reality, depriving the artist of that vital connection to the real world.
Unlike many writers, I view writing as a means of communication with the artist seeking to convey something to an audience -- the more people a work is capable of reaching, the better.
For the most part, college campus writers seem to lack that human touch allowing them to reach out to "real" people, and to me such writers seem little better than a flock of bored housewives stuck around a kitchen table spreading in-group gossip to which no one from the outside is privy -- not the milk person, not the mail person, not even the gas and election reader.