Monday, October 17, 2011

Art and Artist

My poems by Isaac Oliver

I hate my poems.

I used to love them, back when they knew their place.

Poems are like dogs you walk in the park

To attract off duty firemen who love them in turn love you

Not my poems.

My poems used to be shy; they used to stand in front of the

mirror

and complain about their bloated syntax and pimpled thematic

structure.

But now they leave the house with couplets I don’t remember

rhyming.

and when I ask where they’re going and with whom they’re going

out,

they say, “He’s not your style. He writes think pieces, political

pieces.”

Oh God, not think pieces, not political pieces.

My poems see a guy across a crowded room,

start talking pretty, saying things like, “Your eyes are like moons,”

and before I know it, I’m left standing alone at the punch bowl.

I’ll grab a stanza’s arm and say, “Just let me have this one, please.”

“You snooze; you lose,” it responds, rolling its eyes.

“You think you’re so hot with your semicolons,” I shout after it,

“but I wrote you for a class assignment! You weren’t even

inspired by anything!”

My poems make better theatre dates then me.

They make jokes; they offer multiplayer compliments;

they know someone in the chorus.

My poems spend money without thinking twice.

They hold hands with men on the subway no matter who’s

looking.

“How’d you get so fearless?” I ask a particularly savvy poem that

insists

on all lowercase letters and refuses every title but “untitled.”

“I don’t know. Are you jealous?” it replies,

its thumb making circles on the palm of a modern dancer/social

activist.

My poems are bitches.

So they’ve been to some festivals; that doesn’t mean they know me.

“You’re much less grateful than my earlier work, when I used to

title poem,” I snap.

“You mean the ones you wrote with Tori Amos playing in the

background

and without the sense of humor?” “untitled” retorts.

My poems also come knocking in the very early morning,

and I let then sleep on my couch, and cry about cruel men

and betrayal, and Karl Rove,

and I hold them and remember why I wrote them.

I’ve needed to be fearless, to not capitalize words,

to laugh, to spend money, and to leave something untitled.

I’ve needed them to be my spies,

to have their hearts broken and their spirits tattered,

and come back to me for punctuation.


I find this poem beautiful because it portrays the distinction between artist and art so clearly. On one hand, the two are inseparable; on the other hand, however, the product is an object in its own right, which sometimes takes up a life of its own. I recently read a playwright's interview in which he says that once he has written a play he tries to stay out of its life: his work is the text, he doesn't take credit/control of the production. I just find the idea of the relationship between an artist and his art very interesting- and this poem does an awesome job at depicting that relationship.

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