Ya know it’s a lie; or, Why We Write

A friend asked me recently what I hoped to accomplish when I wrote a poem. I stammered something about it not reallly being a desire to accomplish something, but more the way you say ouch when you bang your elbow. Only more pleasant. Sometimes.

But that didn’t feel entirely right.

Then I said something about wanting to show the reader something, startle their perspective, the way the view changes when you shift the kaleidoscope and the colored fragments fall into different patterns. But that certainly didn’t seem entirely true. I rarely think about the reader at all.

I started to say something about how poetry appeals to me because of its compression. But although that’s true, that’s not really why I write it.

I started to say something about art as communication, but at that point I knew I had my cerebral hat on, and that that didn’t really get at what she was asking.

So don’t I run into an article by that damned George Saunders, who got it just write — I mean, right. In a Guardian article from 2017, he wrote this: “We often discuss art this way: the artist had something he ‘wanted to express’, and then he just, you know … expressed it. We buy into some version of the intentional fallacy: the notion that art is about having a clear-cut intention and then confidently executing same. The actual process, in my experience, is much more mysterious and more of a pain in the ass to discuss truthfully.”

Word, George. What he said.

 

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