Some of the most influential writing for me has been outside poetry.
Sadly, the last year or two, since graduating, I haven’t read as much literature as I would like. Maybe after consuming so much amazing poetry, creative nonfiction and stories I just needed a second to step back and re-assess everything.
Even though I feel a bit off track with lit, non-fiction outside the realm of poetry has been greater in benefit to my writing and intellect than my stuck-up, high school version of me would have ever assumed possible.
Reading Ad Reinhardt’s “On Spirituality in Art” I gained insights into writing poetry and pursuing it as an art that I never would have by reading what Robert Frost had to say about this and that.
Well, sentence sounds have really stuck with me (that was Frost, right?), but, to be fair, that’s because an excellent professor brought it to bear with her trademark pizzazz (Hi C.W.). I think about that one during regular conversations even today, actually.
And to be fair, Reinhardt isn’t the best writer of all time. The book reads like notes, but the magic is still there.
Reading what one type of artist has to say about their art or even better, something other than their art, for whatever reason, has a profound impact on me.
Proust talking about the art world or who he thinks is the poet was an eye-opening read. Like, fiction people see us like that?
Keith Jarret, an improvisational jazz pianist (listen to the Koln Concert, if you never have) said that more important than the best and most personally influential of classical composers and jazz musicians were the books of a Scandinavian philosopher he read (the name escapes me—help, anyone?). He made the point, at least it is the point I got from the interview was that those arts other than our own have the greatest impact on our work because they can actually add something to them.
So much for preaching to the choir, right? It’s a good point. How can I improve my sonnets by only reading sonnets? Not only will they look and sound like every sonnet I’ve read, but they will have the same ideas, too!
Why paint like an impressionist when you could paint like a Norwegian death metal band? The death metal painting would definitely be more interesting, if a little depressing.
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of non-fic about business and blogging and getting things started, which has me understanding why I’ve watched “Unicorn Store” fifty times. The books aren’t “Moby Dick” and they definitely aren’t poetry, but one thing they definitely have going for them is that they are from outside my genre. They are a part of what has gotten me to freely share writing and to the point where I see blogging as a valid exercise and pursuit for even the most serious of writers.
Side note, they have also taught me about my art:
Nothing is easy. Everything takes work. Do what you love and do it unabashedly.
If writing books of poems, teaching poetry, leading workshops means I need to get published in this or that magazine and find my way to an assistant professor job through semester after semester of single or no adjunct classes, I think it will be easier if I blog about the thing I love for as long as I can and enjoy every second of it and along the way. Those opportunities only come up after getting the work out there—so here it is!
These business guides and books on writing for non-writers make it clear: Run after the thing you want, rather than crawl toward someone without a single sign of who you are to give them. Down with patience. You know? I’m going to die one day, and living on someone else’s schedule, which is really just a schedule I imagine them having for me, just isn’t going to cut it. I have to work on a million things right now, before I get too old to do anything other than watch mah stories on the television while my cats digest careless mice.
Not to get political, which I will do my best never to do, but this is the U.S. of America—I’ll do whatever tf I want to get the result I dream about. You’d better be damn sure, tyrants, that I’m gonna write my quirky little poems and get into downright dirty discussions about language and art and how people muddle the two. You can be sure I’m gonna have a good time while I do it, too.
Also, maybe put me on a tenure track?
Go outside. Get free. Be digital. That’s what I’m doing, anyway. And it’s going to be fun.