The internet and the nature of my job increase the likelihood of me interacting with people whose works I admire. Visual artists, musicians, writers. Just last week, I probably had the biggest small exchange of my life.
I posted Alice Fulton's 'What I like' on my Twitter, and she thanked me — and even said my name [EXCLAMATION POINT]
@fishpeep Thanks for posting my poem, Razel!— Alice Fulton (@RiffSublime) June 23, 2016
So I had to say something in return, it was my chance to, not out of the blue, tell her what I've always wanted to tell her, how brilliant I think she is, but of course in a very dignified manner. And, but, all I came up with was:
@fishpeep Thanks so much. It's lovely to hear this at the start of the day. I hope to read your work, too.— Alice Fulton (@RiffSublime) June 24, 2016
Since then this passage about what we truly mean when we say we love an artwork, that we think it's beautiful, was floating in my head. I knew I've highlighted that in one of those theory books and I knew it was either Ann Lauterbach or another female writer (Anais Nin, maybe; or Jeanette Winterson; hardly Sontag, coz I remember the prose being very lyrical and, um, kind). So I picked up 'The night sky' and saw that it was mildly annotated.
But there it was. What a pleasure to know exactly what you're looking for and then finding it, and then finding out you're getting more than what you expected. Rereading the lines plus the entire argument behind it lent me a new clarity.
A young poet friend remarks, "The divine part of humanity is its capacity to see the interconnectedness between all things. To be that interconnectedness." If this is so, then the Divinity we wish to resemble is testing us in subtle new ways, asking us to worship at the Temple of Information, whose Disembodied Oracular Source (who is speaking?) is lost in a thousand transcripts flying through the stratosphere, like pixilated ghosts, each with its particle of fact. To see connections in this, to find in it the syntax of the heart, to invent compelling stories and stunning images: to impose on this astounding influx form?
Form, after all, is chosen limits.
Limit, as a formal characteristic, is the expression of choice in the service of the possible.
The possible is the indeterminate futurity of meaning.
Form posits the optimum conditions for meaning to occur.
. . . .
When limits, or choices, are displayed in the service of the possiblity of meaning, in the making of art objects, we call the result beatiful. That is, we stand before a painting by Vermeer, or we read a peom by Paul Celan, or we listen to Shostakovich's Twenty-four Preludes and Fugues for piano, and we say this is beautiful. But what we are really announcing is our pleasure and gratitude in the fact of the choices the artist has made [emphasis mine]. We recognize something in how one stroke of the brush brushes up against another stroke of the brush; how one note moves toward and away from the next in an astounding sequence; how one word attaches itself to another and to another and to another until something that has to do with all the words separately—the history of their meaning—gathers into a nexus which allows us, which invites us, to experience something like the meaning of meaning.
. . . .
Art is not entertainment, and it is not decor. It is one of the rude fallacies of our time to want to reduce all art forms, and in particular literary arts, to their most facile and elemental role, and so deny their potential to awaken, provoke, and elicit our glee at being agents in the construction of meaning.
So the next time I meet one of my creative heroes, I'll show my appreciation by slapping them with Ann Lauterbach's 'The night sky'. Kidding. Will tell them, Thank you for making these creative decisions.