In high school I had to memorize Samuel Taylor Coolridge’s poem Xanadu. What is it about alcohol or drugs and creativity? We tolerate the infusion of mind altering chemicals for the brain that writes poems or songs or novels. We even romanticize the artist that paints or sculpts in an inebriated state. There is this notion that the creative portion of the brain flows freer when inhibitions are lowered or reality is out of focus. But, often the resultant “art” is something unintelligible. The popular assertion is that “art”, especially high art, is often beyond the common man’s comprehension. Are the critics all the butt kissers of the Emperor and his new clothes? Why didn’t anyone tell Jim Morrison that his songs made absolutely no sense…I suppose high on LSD or some other hallucinogen the lyrics had some entertaining value. But the mish mash is left for the critics to interpret. I can’t believe I am referencing South Park, but Cartman said it best about their best selling novel….THERE IS NO MEANING. Why must we look for meaning a heap of dung? Can’t we just call it crap and move on?
Art is not something we need persuading to understand or comprehend. And art is not always beautiful. Sometimes it is agony. No one can argue that the Pieta is one of the most evocative pieces of sculpture…but it is not beautiful. It is gut wrenching sorrow.
April is National Poetry Month. I love poetry I can read and see and entire canvass condensed or distilled down into a few lines or stanzas. That is a magician’s illusion but it is not magic. It is craft and true art. And out most accessible poetry is in our music. Listen to U2 or Dylan or Sting or Springsteen or TuPac or Linkin Park or Green Day or Cold Play. Then listen to Natalie Merchant’s latest musical endeavor: Leave Your Sleep. Every song is a poem set to music. These are not her lyrics, but it is her voice and the results requires no persuasion. It is true art.