What Is It To Be An Artist?

September 10, 2001

What is it to be an artist? What is it to be a woman?  Or even a woman artist?  Does it mean being a rebel? A sophist? A sinner?  Or does it mean being celebrated? Being powerful and eternal?  Artists—poet and painters alike—are the closest to God, to their Christ-Consciousness. This awareness and power often creates fear in those who do not understand.  We can create and destroy entire worlds and see ancient mysteries as well as future events (as all time is happening at once.)

Perhaps part of my alienation and feeling like a freak is part of being an artist.  My personality, my heart and soul is that of an artist.  I could be nothing else.  I try to imagine myself as other things—a businesswoman, a factory worker, a salesperson etc., but none of them fit.  I have many interests—psychology, history, archaeology, and mythology among others.  Still, I cannot imagine abandoning my writing for any of those, so I choose to incorporate them into it.

I think and ponder over all of this because of reading White Oleander.

Objectiveness, that is what is stressed.  I can see where it might serve a purpose, especially when trying to publish a traditional paper in a traditional press.  Still, it is that personal and artistic touch is important.  It sets one apart from the crowd, makes one original and fresh.  Often we are frightened by originality and takes awhile to embrace it, but one cannot let that fear take over.  If Picasso or Henry Miller or Anais Nin or Erica Jong or any other innovative artist would have paid attention to protocol or been afraid to go against the grain we would have lost out.  That goes for people like Darwin, Edison, Einstein, and other great thinkers as well as people like the Beatles, Hendrix, the Doors and Nirvana and other musicians.  We’d still be in the dark ages if we remained afraid and conservative and what is conservatism if it is not trying to hold onto the past?

One can remain faithful, loyal and rooted firmly to a set of core beliefs, but still be flexible.  Think of how a tree or flower must stay in place, yet learn to bend with the wind.  If it does not bend then it will break and that will surely damage it, if not destroy it.

So, in writing, you must learn the rules and forms—you master your craft and then learn to bend these rules…Have I done that though?  I am not sure exactly what I have done with my poetry.  I know that it follows some basic rules of formal poetry, but it isn’t strictly formal.  It isn’t the free-flowing prose-poetry that is popular either, although there as some of those elements of that in there as well.  My style seems to be a collage of many things I’ve read over the years.

I finished reading The Best American Poetry 2001 this weekend.  I grew frustrated.  My poetry is nothing like what is in there it seems.  So is it (my poetry) completely brilliant or complete shit?  Hard to tell.  When I read the book I was bored with it though.  My short attention span and getting lost in the words made it difficult to enjoy.  Most of the poetry read like excerpts from books—novels, they were simply broken into lines and verses instead of in paragraph form.

To me, poetry needs to be more abstract and fragmented than prose.  It is more about symbols and metaphors than narrative.  Poetry is a snap shot, a single instant captured.  Short stories are perhaps a series of photos or a slide show.  A novel is more like a movie.  Each medium has its own purpose and poetry’s purpose it to convey one idea or thought.

This medium then, is conducive to expressing a single feeling or exploring one idea.

For me poetry is a tool in which I can express myself.  It is more than observation or a confession though.  It is observation of a confession! It is sort of a self-reflexive expression.  It is, like this diary, an effort to understand the world through an understanding of myself.  It is both personal and universal.

About carilynn27

Reading and writing and writing about reading are my passion. I've been keeping a journal since I was 14. I also write fiction and poetry. I published my first collection of short stories, "Radiant Darkness" in 2000. I followed that up with my first collection of poetry in 2001 called "Journey without a Map." In 2008, I published "Persephone's Echo" another collection of poetry. Since then I've also published Emotional Espionage, The Way The Story Ended, My Perfect Drug and Out There. I have my BA in English from The Ohio State University at Mansfield and my MA in English Lit from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I also have my Post BA Certificate in Women's Studies. I am the mother of two beautiful children. :-)
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