But no real artist will be comfortable delivering raw materials— Gwendolyn Brooks
I just came across this quote in Harmony Holiday’s incredible newsletter. I’ve been working a lot lately, writing and editing and making. I’ve been out in the desert leaving water and beans. I’ve been unable to share thoughts or work very publicly because it all feels too raw, too strange, too direct.
I don’t know that I believe the quote, the bit about “real artists,” and I can’t find the original context for it. But I’m feeling that discomfort with raw materials. The writing lately has been raw, very. Enraged. Entangled with militarization, trans bans, borders, institutions, the violent daily machinations of government and capitalism and our country’s death drive dragging so many down with it. Accepting this writing comes with an unlearning of what I was taught to be "good poetry." My critical eye is a bit lost, which I welcome with bewilderment.
I want to make an art that heals without retraumatizing. In some ways I want to elide the present, but then it impresses itself upon my writing and what emerges is twisting and ugly but I’m glad to be saying it. So what I’m unsure about is how what whether to share here. When are my raw materials too vulnerable. There’s a volatility to the early stages of many poems where the ember can go out just as easily as it might catch. All depends on breathing right and feeding just the necessary amount of fuel. Fires are delicate things before they burn.
A friend recently wrote about how their work doesn’t look glamorous on social media or in a blog post: long waits for plants to grow, weeding, turning compost, the delicate and patient process of distilling, the repetition of measuring and pouring. The algorithm or its analogues would like a product, a content, that is fast yet finished, authentic, of course, but aesthetic, effortless and curated, predictably original. But what about the messy accordion of making, the intensity, the squeeze, and then the long barren release. Or the careful hewing of editing. My attunement to moon cycles, intentionally anticapitalist, is bad for audience growth, apparently. I think there aren’t many films about poets writing because what do we do all day. Find a few words then cut them in half. This is what you get, few and far between, and my gratitude for the support.
I’ve been pushing to birth the book and it really is overdue. In the meantime, another manuscript maybe emerging. Something like a travelogue essay poem with some of the writing from here and some I’ve kept to myself. That feels good I think, but what about sitting with the book that’s not even out yet. The trouble with re-entering a world of poems, their language from my past. How different I want to make these things but they almost already exist physically and there’s no going back now. We’re going to print by next month, fingers crossed and knock on wood. Who knows what war and supply chains might do to books anymore, and how trifling such concerns, but the plan is to launch late spring/early summer. All these ideas about how to perform the poems but it’s a fucking hustle booking readings. Running a small business, I’m realizing. So many workshops and theories in college and not a hint about how to be a poet in the world, an artist with bills to pay. Workshop debts. There's some of the resentment I'm still working out, I suppose.
I’ll leave you with one:
Sun Devil Power Clean Energy
the ocotillo, too
are tendrils of dreaming
another time reaching
out of the earth
in sharp lacelike fingeryeyes
from the desert’s rippling
waver ready to blot
out the sun in a cloud of ink
a signature of blood dragged
across the heat.