In Which One Things Leads to Another

Part One, In Which One Thing Leads Clearly To Another

I got Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work from the library because someone on Facebook or somewhere posted his great “How to Support an Artist You Love” list and then I googled him.

[Go look at it then come back.]

[Welcome back. It’s great, right?] 

I liked Show Your Work, which is to say I agree, it seems pretty smart about trying to be an artist in that which is our now, how to get out there, how to connect, how to show your work. (Also, he quotes Dan Chaon, Alison Bechdel, Cyndi Lauper, and John Le Carre, so what’s not to like.)

In it, in one of the sections, Kleon talks about the destructive “lone genius” myth and how the other way to look at it is that “great ideas are often birthed by a group of creative individuals—artists, curators, thinkers, theorists, and other tastemakers—who make up an ‘ecology of talent’.” Which Brian Eno calls a “scenius.” And how the internet is a big bunch of various sceniuses. And how that’s cool.

Part Two, In Which One Thing Might Lead to Another

In one of Kleon’s sentences in Show Your Work there’s a list I like: “books, skeletons, jewels, shells, art, plants, minerals, taxidermy specimens, stones”.

I like lists. The kind of lists that come in sentences. I keep notebooks of them. Disembodied lists without subject or point, without attribution, chained up by commas or just ‘and’s, that I have read and have written down.

– books, paintings, plate

– tempermental oxen, rusted bullets, thievery, and dysentery

– alter space and time, create vivid illusion, cast a spell

– your bleach, your booze, your flaming hot pokers

– of friendship, of camaraderie, of everything that’s necessary

– gross, drunken, irresponsible, self-dramatizing, and astonishingly witty

– data-intense, design-simple, word-sized

– lives, landmarks, and scents

– black, very English, jaded, fired up, horny and bored

– cartoons, Granny glasses, and French horns

I have no idea why I keep them.

I have a certain idea why I like them, but to stop in my reading and write them down whenever they appear? What’s up with that? I don’t really use lists that much in my poetry. But whatever. I don’t care. It feels important.

Important to notice them, to write them down, all of them, and it feels like it will someday lead my work somewhere. I know enough about making my own art to trust that feeling, the feeling that isn’t that one where “or am I just procrastinating” is definitely a valid debate.

Show your work, Kleon says, share your drafts. This isn’t a draft, I didn’t write these lists, but the act of collecting them is somehow a work in progress.

– stiff competition, rowdy or indifferent clients, hostile civic authorities

– arcane, obscure, and impossible to categorize

– impudent pamphleteering, phantastical interluding, and desperate libeling

– her exemplary TV marriage, her maternal wisdom, the sheer amazingness of her hair

– living artists, American art, representational art, Pepsi-Cola contest winners

– new, strange, unheard

Post script

Poetry Month ain’t over yet! I’m still over on Twitter daily, tweeting and re-tweeting cool poems and #poetrymonth stuff. I’ll do a full recap later, but here are a few poetry-world things I have particularly enjoyed stumbling upon this month:

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