Charles Bukowski used to talk about how most poets are incapable of writing "true things," that they are "fiddling assholes waiting for immortality that never comes because the poor fucker just can't write." They are incapable of producing simple lines like "the dog walked down the street."
I feel like only recently have I had enough humility to write things that represent anything beyond my own self-involvement. True things, like pieces of the first poem I've written in months and months:
I sometimes think the popularity of coffee is a conspiracy
perpetrated by the same people who pretend that tea
tastes like something other than leaves in hot water
(and carry it around in glass jars like little backstage passes
to Zen heaven where Ginsberg eternally masturbates and
bald men pace flowingly on hemp sandals)
The test is something along the lines of the Goodwill Litmus, a device I came up with wandering through art museums in Europe for judging works I knew nothing about: if you encountered whatever painting is in question on sale for five dollars at a thrift store, would you buy it? The Poetry Litmus is thinking about whether or not you would be embarrassed to speak the lines out loud in front of people.
I saw Kimya Dawson perform at my college. She was all adorable and whatnot, sang songs about farts and butts and people drowning in floods. I love seeing people who have found their genuine thing and are not pretentious about it. I also love seeing them making livings off of it and being able to connect to hundreds of people at once, revealing something that is actually themselves. The best art is neutral, reflecting many places at once. The best art is also simple, contained, true.
I recently encountered a piece of art that has since become my favorite, maybe ever. It's a short book of comic strips about a cat doing adorable things, called Cat Getting Out of a Bag. The following is a MySpace correspondence between the author and I.
I see that you list The Blow under your favorite music. I saw her perform recently. She is, to trot out a tired platitude, a force. After the show, I wrote her a rather gushy MySpace message about how much I appreciate sincerity in art because it is so rare and valuable. Apparently, this is becoming a habit for me.
My gushing will benefit from context:
Tonight, I had dinner out with my parents, who are visiting me at college. I ordered a boca burger. I hate boca burgers, but I've been a vegetarian a number of years and after a while you learn to settle. Halfway through my meal, I realized that I was actually eating beef. It was the first time since Junior year of high school that any meat had made it far enough to be swallowed. I was stunned, and sunk into lasting malaise.
The issue was not just dismay over having compromised, even if by accident, my values. I was upset, deeply, because I didn't know if I really WAS all that troubled; whether the past however many months, even years, of adherence to my diet was just out of force of habit. Was I just too lazy to come up with a tenable enough justification to start eating meat again? Did I care at all?
We went to a bookstore because my parents thought it would cheer me up. I was going to buy the new Onion book, "Our Dumb World," but some guy swiped it while my back was turned in defiance of his ambiguously European wife, who was loudly denouncing it as trashy, distasteful, and gauchely American.
"Cat Getting Out of a Bag" was on display. I opened it and thumbed through half of it.
By the time I came to the sequence of Misty summoning you to turn the light on in the basement so she could use her litter box, I was on the verge of breaking into tears right in the middle of the shop.
I settle for boca burgers because sometimes animals look at you and there is a moment of recognition, maybe even understanding.
I bought the book. Your drawings helped me to renew my conviction when it was most threatened, so thank you.
Thanks very much for the message, it's truly appreciated, and it makes the art making all worthwhile.
I have yet to see The Blow live... I did mix some song titles and lyrics into a comic I did that comes out later this year, I'll be interested to see if anyone catches it
Best to you,
I want to learn create things that are exactly what they are, that are of use to people, that are true.