Looting Versailles

Looting Versailles
My first book of poems, just released by Alabaster Leaves Publishing

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Critic's Guilt: Get Over It

The truth about art is: Good art is loved, it surprises and makes you happy, sad, or that perfect blending of both; bad art, on the other hand, is repulsive as dog shit or rotten eggs. The fact of the matter is, these outcomes (feelings) are all in the heart of the beholder, but the law is universal: If it repulses you, it's bad art - so don't feel bad for hating it.

That's right. For all of you in "workshops" who feel hard-pressed for something nice to say about a pile of turds dropped in front of you by an eager-for-praise puppy as if it's the newspaper or your slippers (their writing), don't feel bad for wanting to say, "This is horrible," or "This is tripe," or, "You have no talent," or "Why do you write," or, "You clearly are inspired ONLY by what your high school language teacher told you a poem / novel is." Does bad art make someone a bad artist? No, of course not; even Shakespeare struck out once in awhile. The feeling isn't rational - feelings seldom are. That doesn't mean they don't tell you something that's true, in this case, that the art before you isn't beautiful, edifying, strange or mysterious...rather, that it's a thorn in your private areas.

Of course, we want to encourage fellow writers, not discourage, so nobody wants to say, This poem is less interesting than my eczema. But wait, do we not want to say it, or do we know the other does not want to hear it; do we know the other members will chastise the messenger for the message? To be honest, that honesty bubbles and boils up inside me every time I read about a babbling brook or the moon in June. You know what that makes me? (A jerk, an asshole, a heartless know-it-all?) It makes me HUMAN. I am repulsed by something unattractive, something noxious; evolution has given me instincts that drive me away from the source of disgust, and told me to avoid it, at all costs, in the future; this, it is logically assumed, is to my benefit, this instinct. So why do I keep going back?

The friendship. The camaraderie. The shared love of literature, words, the common goal of creating beautiful word-objects, images, sounds, experiences to transcend the daily world. That's why you don't say those nasty phrases burning their holes in the back of your throat or your temporal lobe, to preserve the social support of a writer's workshop.

The moral of the blog post is: If you hate bad art, find yourself retching in its presence and wanting to punch the cliches in their pregnant bellies, fret not, dispel your shame. My friend and fellow sufferer, you are human, pricked and bleeding; smile at that wonderful fact, the fact of your vivacity, and tell your brother-in-rhymes: I really like that you made the roses red and describe the birds as feathery.

I felt, to prevent counterargument to the fact, that it's important to consider taste. In order to trust one's feelings of repulsion versus love (or its components) one must first refine his or her palate, must first view multiple and variable individual pieces and acquire a sense of what's right or wrong in the art form, prior to gauging Good versus Bad; a degree of intelligence is probably required as well (unless I'm wrong and Duck Dynasty is truly Great Art).

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