yesterday's discussion on asking the most basic questions about art, Lucinda Williams says this, "Above all, the listener should be able to understand the poem or the song, not be forced to unravel a complicated, self-indulgent puzzle. Offer your art up to the whole world, not just an elite few." It's her birthday, that fact and this quotation thanks to The Writer's Almanac. Thanks to Wikipedia and Creative Commons for Lucinda with her guitar.
Of course, Lucinda's music and lyrics are right out there, raw and repetitive (in the way refrains are, so we can sing along and really feel it), her heart offered up to the world. Her dad is the poet Miller Williams, and I got to hear them together in a program of the Poetry Center at the Art Institute of Chicago once! Great evening.
But her country-music out-thereness is not for everybody. And I don't mind unraveling...a braid, or putting together a puzzle, if I see that the unraveling frees the wild mane or the jigsaw diligence reveals the whole with my participation, and if there is something of interest available right away. So it is still a matter of balance. We can be available and accessible as artists and still offer a reasonable challenge.
If we are seeing something new, that's what we want to show, yes? If we are feeling something intensely that we sense is probably a shared feeling, we want to communicate our experience, not just express a feeling (the self-indulgence Lucinda warns against).
Oh, I know that English departments have broken off from Communications departments on just this issue, with Communications identified with delivering information for some specific purpose (advertising or public relations, journalism or broadcast journalism, etc.). But what I mean is that when I read or write a poem, I am hoping to commune with someone in some way!
Uh, and it's not "an elite few," really, I hope, but it is an intimate communion with each member of the community I find there. Let us share this moment together, whoever we are, via the tangible poem or song and the intangible experience created by it.