Sunday, 4. September 2016 23:30
Rita Dove is not only a woman who writes amazing poetry, she is the second African-American to win a Pulitzer prize for poetry and the youngest person ever to be named United States Poet Laureate. Moreover, she has received 25 honorary doctorates as well as a host of other prestigious awards. If you look on the internet, you can find a number of quotes that are attributed to her.
Most of those quotes have to do with things other than art, but there are a few that do, and those few describe an approach to art that would benefit almost any artist. Her art, of course, is poetry, but you do not have to be a poet to apply her words. Just substitute your own art or arts whenever she refers to poetry and you will see why what she has to say is important.
Concerning her creative goals, she says, “All I ever wanted to do was write the best damn poem that I could write – a poem that was true and honest and the very best I could write artistically and linguistically.” What could be a better goal for an artist? Work that is true and honest and the very best that one can create both artistically and mechanically is all any of us could strive for. How many of us have gone to our theatres or computers or studios and done work that was maybe just a little less than true and honest? Or perhaps, on an off day, we did not do the best that we could either artistically or mechanically or both. If so, maybe our own creative goals could stand a little re-examination.
Continuing on the subject of truth, she finds it important to be true to oneself and recognizes that in doing that, the artist is being true to a much larger constituency. She says, “Being true to yourself really means being true to all the complexities of the human spirit.” Because (1) we are all connected and (2) the complex being that is us reflects all those complexities that make up humanity, in being true to ourselves, we cannot but make more empathetic, more complex, or more truthful art.
Dove says this of her approach to creating: “Every time I sit down to write, I try to feel that I’m starting over. It’s all new. It’s all fresh, and I’m learning as we go.” And “I make a discovery in a poem as I write it.” How better to make art? Every project in brand new and fresh. The artist makes discoveries and learns both artistically and personally as he/she creates. This does not mean, of course, that the artist does not bring all his/her experience and learning to the project. But if the project is to be more than a recycling of old ideas and formulas and means of expression, it must be new and fresh and full of discovery. Otherwise the work is, in the words of Konstantin Stanislavski, imitative art or worse, hack work, and who wants to be associated with that?
So, perhaps if we were to follow Dove’s advice about creative goals and being true to ourselves, as well as adopting her approach to creation, we might find that our work is more honest, more reflective of us, fresher, more innovative—better.