Are the arts valued in this culture, in this day and age? Sadly, no—not the way they should be, not in a way that sustains working artists. I’ve always known this. Are the arts valuable? Yes—immensely.
Much has been written recently about our current political culture and the divides it creates. Still more has been written about the rise of technology use, the dip in attendance at traditional community institutions like churches and social clubs, and how these changes affect the way we all view each other.
Toad is like most of us: awkward and worried and often very silly. If we’re lucky, we have a friend or parent or spouse like Frog who can see the bigger picture in life and who loves us despite our quirks.
In John Gardner’s Becoming a Novelist, the author names two kinds of writers. One is fascinated by their own inner world, crafting characters as they appear before them. I think of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway — the complex inner-life of a woman receiving the world like she’s casting a net into the sea and is more interested in how the net does its snaring work than in what she hauls in.
In photos of cows and pigs, I began to see sentient souls looking back at me. I would lose my breath at the beauty I had never known to look for in “livestock.” I felt myself peering into the eyes of a goat and searching for a language other than English in which to communicate, a language that has nothing to do with words.
Here the media—the outmoded form of vinyl on turntable—allows me to step out of the relentless grind of my daily life. The record will finish playing one side in a remarkably short period of time and beg me to return to flip it over or replace the record with a new one.
These shifts of the perceived subject happen frequently throughout the poem, and cause me as a reader to reread previous lines differently due to the knowledge gained from later lines.
With a poem, faith is a hidden constellation, beginning with the still-mysterious act of writing. The blank page, which is simultaneously white and dark, is the abyss each writer stares into until the moment, as Nietzsche said, where the abyss stares back into the writer.
Even being constantly surrounded by people for the majority of the weekend, the whole experience felt rejuvenating rather than draining. Everyone at the conference was wonderfully friendly and absolutely thrilled to have yet another conversation about books or poetry or the super awesome panel they had just seen.
AWP is full of amazing treasures, interesting people, and SO. MANY. BOOKS. But traveling from one corner of the country to another can lead to a cultural shock, so I’m here to help the fellow PNWers cope with these possibly terrifying changes.