Thursday, September 06, 2012

Artist Statement

I’m the featured poet at The Bakery this month.  One of the things the featured poets have done is to write artist statements, so I wrote one. Turns out, it wasn’t an easy thing to do. I thought I would just knock it out. I couldn’t. I had to sit with it a bit, and even so, this kind of mumbling half-statement was what I came up with:

I’ve given up. I don’t know of a better or smarter-sounding way to say it, even though “given up” isn’t quite it either. I feel it’s more active than that, how I feel. I’m feeling restless, is all. I don’t think art, by its nature, is any more exalted than other forms of behavior. Well, I do feel it’s more exalted than many things, but I don’t think artists are like priests. Then again, maybe some are. I like the idea that there’s a spiritual dimension to art, but I also like as much the idea that there’s a spiritual dimension to plumbing. This is the nature of my restlessness.

I’ve never much believed in “voice,” for instance.

I’ve given up categories and dimensions, for now. I’ve given up that kind of thinking about art. It bores me. Once, it thrilled me, then it frustrated me, and now it bores me. It doesn’t bore others, though, and I continue to enjoy many things others have to say about such categories and dimensions (except maybe the conversation about whether prose poetry is really poetry or not; that one, I feel, is a waste of time and should have been done a hundred years ago).

Participating with art is a most excellent thing to do with one’s time. I wish more people did it. But, even so, I haven’t seen any evidence that art makes anyone better, more moral, and etc. I’m taken with art more than I’m taken with most other things, but still, I’m also taken with other things. I like soccer. Art is not everything, and, by the same reasoning, everything is not art. I like reminding myself of that. A good soccer game is not like a poem. I think poems are like poems, and poems are infinitely variable. The face of art is always inscrutable, and what we find there is what we bring to it. These are formal movements.

That’s what I thought this morning. It was early, forgive me. Now it’s the evening, and as I’m looking back at it, it almost looks like a break-up note. “Dear Art,” or something. But I don’t feel the least like breaking up. I like our relationship and I’m certain we can work things out. I feel no crisis of conscience or faith. And even if there is some crisis, if this were a crisis, I’d just end up making poems about it. What kind of a crisis is that?

Lately, within this restlessness, I’ve been wandering around with how I approach writing poems. The poems here represent two of those wanderings. One is what came of my thinking about sentences, the other came from my thinking about the ways we think of memories, though both contain sentences as well as memories. All doors are windows, as someone might say, if one wanted to sound all mysterious about it. Or maybe if one were simply trying to describe how things are.

A selection of new poems can be found on this page (after the above statement):

Also a blog post on Michael Benedikt (because apparently that’s all I’m thinking about these days!) with some of his poems can be found here:


At 9/09/2012 3:44 PM, Blogger underbelly said...

I don't believe you don't believe in voice.

At 9/10/2012 6:24 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Yeah, you’re right. I probably do believe in voice. I mean, there are such things as recognizable styles, which, then, would be considered “voices.” But what I keep reacting to is this push I hear from some writers for “finding a voice.” I’m not a big fan of that. Voice this voice that. When I was going to school it seems it was the only thing anyone ever said. It’s a rug a lot of more interesting conversations get swept under.


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