Sometimes I feel like a rabbit running late for an important date. “I’m not gonna make it,” I think to myself, “I’m not gonna make it!” And I get a little depressed. But just for a moment. Just for a moment. I check those thoughts. I have to. I totally know I’m thinking about where I am not, and what I am not, to “others”. Specific “others”. People I know, have known, have met, who judge me by a particular criteria. One called “status quo,” or “the norm”. They judge what I should be, should have, should do, when, and how. It sometimes gets me down. But, hell, maybe I’m a turtle. I don’t know, and they don’t either. Maybe they are rabbits and I’m a turtle.
I’m ok with being “nobody”. For now. I’m NOT nothing, I’m nobody. I mean, I don’t teach at some phat university. Not even a community college. I don’t have a phat job. Hell, I don’t have a job at all. 😦 Well, not a paying one. At least, not yet. I have not given up hope that I will again find a means of earning ducats.
I just finished reading a little book of vignettes and essays by someone who shall remain nameless. He has an MFA. A poet. He’s “somebody”. I met him many years ago. I used to envy him, even though I knew he didn’t write the way I wanted to. I envied him because he had this MFA, and he was published, and teaching, and he apparently had some measure of lit fame, via academia, anyway. I never signed up for his class, because I knew he didn’t have what I needed. He’s no Raymond Carver. He’s no Charles Bukowski. He’s no Kerouac. (I love Carver’s stories, but I don’t really care for his poetry. I feel the same about Kerouac. I think Kerouac’s poetry is in his prose, not his poems.) Anyway, this particular MFA dude has published books of poems and books of stories. He’s won awards. He’s known. All this makes him “somebody”.
But I noticed, reading this little book of his, recently released, that he’s not that great a writer. He’s not a great storyteller. Hell, he’s hardly even a good one. He’s trite, sometimes awkward. I think he’s a boring, mediocre writer.
Apparently, a phat professor, a brilliant, phat professor, from an Ivy League, criticized this MFA poet, used him as an example of how “politics rather than aesthetic value has come to dominate American poetry.” He says the quality of poetry has been diluted. He said this MFA poet is an example of mediocrity. I didn’t know this before I read this little book. I smiled when I learned of it, because I totally agree with the phat professor.
All literature is creative writing, but not all creative writing is literature. Literature is art, creative writing is marketable material; literature is genius, creative writing is clever. An MFA is nothing to sneeze at. It’s a credential. You can teach with an MFA. But it doesn’t necessarily make you an artist. My aim is toward art. Whether or not I achieve it, is a judgement call.
Who gets to call it art? Well, critics, scholars, curators, other artists, and the public. But only time really tells; art endures. Lots of people think Banksy is an artist. I think he’s a creative political activist. I admire the guy for a lot of reasons. But I don’t think he’s a great artist. He’s creative, and he’s smart, no doubt. And sure as hell, he’s got fame. A lot of people, including some rockers, think Jean-Michel Basquiat is (was–he died of a heroin overdose in 1988) an artist (graffiti artist). I’ve heard his art described as “primal” or “primal expressionism”. I have a feeling that Basquiat painted as well as he could. He was no Paul Klee. I mean, he didn’t choose to paint the way he painted, it was the only way he could paint. That’s my opinion, anyway, based on works of his I’ve seen on-line, and the two films of him I watched (a biopic, the other a documentary). I think he’s way over-rated.
I sold four of my chapbooks. My neighbor bought one. She’s an older woman, a retired therapist. I was taken by surprise, actually, when she said she wanted to buy one. Adobe Books on 24th Street bought two. Dog Eared Books on Valencia bought one. And I have two on consignment at Modern Times Bookstore, and two on consignment at Alley Cat Books, both on 24th Street. It’s a start.
Before I close here, I want to mention Lou Reed, who died last week. I was shocked and so very saddened to hear about it. Another of my rocker poet heroes is gone. But his music and lyrics live on, and will continue to inspire musicians and poets. R.I.P., Lou Reed. I salute you.