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09 March 2006

If Beauty is Truth, is this beautiful enough?

Here is today's question:
What makes a good work of art?
What is a good poem? Mere technical prowess? Mechanical precision married to intensity of thought and feeling? Perspicacious observation? Or "a certain je ne sais quoi," to quote Peter Schickele?
And what is a good quality photograph, from an artistic point of view? What makes a piece of music a work of genius? Can we list off the items that make it great? Or does greatness transcend the individual features? When is a painting wonderful? Are only subjective evaluations valid, or are there objective measures of quality?

Here is a poem we can talk about, maybe, in relation to this. It's formless, and it's talking about the difficulty of writing poetry about God! So it can spark a meta-conversation (love it!). Is it any good? If so, how can it be? It follows no form. If it's no good, how do we know that? Against what standard? So, have fun.







17 February 2006

Lines on Listening


Anger blooming little starflowers on my eyelashes
overflow, overflow

Why do You leave me wandering in my own hollow cries?
Why must I shout and shout into this,
my own ringing echo?


Blank white overcast sky pressing down out of reach
rumble of something on thunder
mumble, mumble

How can I draw Your shape
on a blank white page
when my brush is dipped in and dripping
with silence—empty silence—
when my pen holds a slim cylinder
of entropy—shifting slipping—
muttering gibberish?


Yes, I do see the mountains.
They do fade range after range after range,
six at least, majesties mist-paling off to a wrinkled horizon.

And I do feel how clean this river-water is,
how cool, how absolute by itself and in its pouring over boulders.
I do hear it chattering below this pool,
Murmur murmur over a crunch of rocks,
but I do not know what it is saying.

4 comments:

Rosie Perera said...

What a huge question! This is what has exercised philosophers for millennia. The whole field of aesthetics arose and still flourishes because mankind has not been able to answer the question once and for all yet.

I think one can't draw up a universal list of qualities that make a work of art "good"; the list would be different for sculpture vs. photography vs. poetry, etc. Some degree of familiarity with the art in question is required in order to assess the quality of a work. And there is also, I think, a good deal of subjectivity involved. I can look at a photograph and know that it is technically excellent (proper exposure, good elements of composition), but still not be moved by it. And there are times when a good photographer (or poet or other artist) can break the "rules" within his medium and still produce a stunning work. So I do think there is a certain je ne sais quoi which transforms good art into great art.

Here's a question to keep the discussion going (as if the initial question weren't already wide open enough): Does art need to transcend time in order to be great (as opposed to merely good)? Could a piece of creative work be called "great" if it only appeals to a certain generation and will be passé in a year or a decade or possibly even a century (certain faddish genres of music come to mind here). I'm not talking about art which is topical -- e.g., relevant to a particular political climate (for example Picasso's Guernica). For these kinds of works, even though they speak to a particular era, continue to be appreciated long after that era is over if they are great.

Mehitchcock said...

I thought and thought about the definition of good art. I decided the question is too big for right now. In short, I think any art that modifies my mood is good to the extent it modifies my mood.
As for your poem, I liked it's sentiment, but I had a few things I didn't like.
I really liked the mumble mumble of the thunder but I thought the sentiment was more clear with the murmering of the stream.
I liked the imagery of the mountains, but unlike the stream and the thunder, you didn't tell us about not being able to express it.
I wonder about the two paragraphs. For me they break the flow. I wonder how anyone else feels.

Iambic Admonit said...

Um, you're right. Thanks for that good critique.

Iambic Admonit said...

Michael:

Here’s a new draft of “Lines on Listening.” Is it improved?

3 April 2006

Lines on Listening


Anger blooming little starflowers on my eyelashes
overflow, overflow

Why do You leave me wandering in my own hollow cries?
Why must I shout and shout into this,
my own ringing echo?


Blank white overcast sky pressing down out of reach
rumble of something on thunder
mumble, mumble

How can I draw Your shape
on a blank white page
when my brush is dipped in and dripping
with silence
—empty silence—
when my pen holds a slim cylinder
of entropy
—shifting slipping—
muttering gibberish?


Yes, I do see the mountains.
They do fade range after range after range,
six at least, majesties mist-paling off to a wrinkled horizon
—significant, vague, ineffable—

…always, everything, ineffable.

And I do feel how clean this river-water is,
how cool, how absolute by itself and in its pouring over boulders.
I do hear it chattering below this pool,
murmur murmur over a crunch of rocks,
but I do not know what it is saying.