It’s bad enough when it’s brilliant

November 14, 2007

I listened to Ginsberg read and fail at his own poem, aloud; this flat recitation of thoughts a generation removed. You could tell he’d chewed over the words until they were strangers, but still felt obligated enough by their brilliance to make some show of enthusiasm. It was like one of those of end of relationship fucks that are more resentment and habit than release; where you’re tracing the lines hard enough the paper tears.

And halfway through this listless Howl it occurred to me how little province we have over our genius, or even ordinary thought, once it moves into the world. We are anchored in a static frame of reference, dependent on the person we were at the moment of creation; not only having lost possession, but any pure capacity to experience the work. There is no ambiguity, no reinterpretive subtlety: we know definitively what it is not. And once we move from the initial frame the meaning slips, until we’re left with a vague appreciation of technique and nostalgia, and little else.

Where this becomes troubling is how quickly our Selves can become artistic representation. We project the same mannerisms, and tell the same stories in the same places, because the behaviors used to have some relevance to us…when our identity was predicated on novel experience. What began as a seeking reactive being, gradually becomes this performance of formerly effective behavior. And the longer we inhabit these old clothes, the more they become costumes; the more we become characters with only momentum for narrative…until even that is gone.

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3 Responses to “It’s bad enough when it’s brilliant”

  1. max Says:

    Okay you have to start eating something else for breakfast right now that is just depressing as hell.


  2. That’s not depressing, it’s cautionary.
    The negative not a certainty, it tendency that can be avoid by moving past our successes and comfort and continuing to engage the world.

  3. Monkey Says:

    I didn’t find it all that negative either. The basic message is: don’t spend too much time sitting on your laurels. I personally try the best I can to continue to move forward instead of spend time counting my past successes or failures. Easier said than doen of course. But a worthy goal nonetheless.

    Also, there is a line in a song by K-OS that I really like. I think it speaks well to the artist’s struggle and the inevitability of an audience and its reaction to the artist’s work. I think goes something like:

    It’s easy not to care what people say
    It’s harder to pretend and try
    ‘Cause they can only love you from yesterday
    I’m looking at the now …


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