Joseph Hutchison recently blogged about not blogging because there was simply nothing to write about (he also includes a great quote about reading). I haven’t written in a while because nothing noteworthy has struck my fancy. I could keep posting about political garbage but there’s more to the world so I’m retiring from that. Since completing my masters in August, I’ve been spending lots of brain-neuron bonfires on the idea of creativity and Kenneth Goldsmith’s dousing of it.
It’s nearly impossible to define creativity outside of the general idea in regards to the act of creating. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure, so it’s splitting hairs arguing over what is creative and what isn’t…unless of course someone comes out and says, “this isn’t creative. It’s boring and I like it!” Enter Goldsmith. But not for a little bit longer.
As humans, we have the capacity to do something no other species on Earth is capable of: creating for the sake of satisfaction. I’m sorry, but my dog has fun making an arabesque out of the kitchen trash, but it isn’t because she wants to make art–she wants those few drips of grease and the mac-n-cheese remains. The squirrels outside don’t create a ballet to escape my dog, they are simply running for their lives. We have the capacity to have a thought or idea, ponder on that idea, and then bring it to artistic fruition. I think there a several reasons for this from a Christian Poetics point of view:
- Man (hu not he) was created in God’s image. If God can take nothing (the Earth was void and without form) and make something out of it, then we hold that same capacity.
- God looked at his creation and it brought him pleasure–it was good (the original hippie? it’s all good, Man.)
- God was intentional about creating things. Whether he was bored or not, doesn’t matter. What matters is he set out to make a universe, solar systems, planets, trees, flowers, oceans, mountains, fish, cheetahs, elephants, etc. Therefore, we should be equally intentional about being creative.
It’s no secret that I have some issues with language/conceptual poetry, the base of which is the philosophy of language. There is indeed a power to language, especially when considering the Genesis story where God created many things with his words, and mankind with his hands. The langpo theorists assert that meaning comes only from language, not the self or the experience, thus poetry should be focused on language. A while back I posted my thoughts about language and my doubts about the sustainability of language without experience. Responses I received were telling me that language isn’t dead, that Goldsmith uses dead words. That’s not the case at all, as I hoped to suggest that taking the experience out of language kills it slowly, thus resulting in a dead language years down the road. I missed the boat on explaining that one. So I should clarify some things here.
I have been adamant in the past that poetry can indeed include the self and experience, and I still believe that to be the case. I also think that meaning can come from language, especially when looking at the Genesis story above. But even then, language did not come from nothing, it came from the mouth of God and was used to make nothing into something. There seems to be an undeniable connection between the self, experience, and language in the creative process.
- Goldsmith wants to be intentionally boring and uninteresting.
- He hopes to rid himself of creativity all together, his poems coming from retyping weather reports and articles word for word from newspapers and magazines.
There are two ways (in my mind) to interpret these assertions: Goldsmith is being sarcastic and trying to make a point, or he’s being serious.
If it’s an artistic rant to make a point I can accept that. He states that by purposefully being uncreative, he was astounded by the experience of looking at day-to-day things in such slow detail. This is not a new realization–poets across time have been saying to slow down, look at the details, look at the small things. It turning off his creativity, Goldsmith was (is?) able to see what is out there beyond his own self, his own shell. If this is just one big “let me show you a lesson,” Goldsmith has taken it to the extreme. He’s published books of his uncreativity, tells people to not buy them, and is absolutely thrilled exploring how boring work can be. It could be that his entire movement is a game, challenging readers, students, and writers to find importance in the unimportant. I get this. Good for you.
But what is there to say if Goldsmith is being serious? Then I’d say he’s right in step with American laziness and entitlement. I’d say he’s taking the easy way out. Goldsmith claims it’s difficult to shut off all creative faculties, but he’s going to try anyway. Just like it’s hard to sit around and watch television for 8 hours, or to buy fast food rather than produce your own menu for a meal, or to only looking for friends on Facebook rather than in real life, or to let somebody else fix the world’s problems because your busy doing nothing.
To rid oneself of creativity is to lop off a piece of the human spirit. Like the integration of self, experience and language, creativity is an innate human attribute. How much interaction there is between health and creativity I may never know or understand, but Goldsmith’s idea, I’ve concluded, leads only to decay. It’s a common theme nowadays with the decay of the economy, the decay of democracy, the decay of immune systems (see H1N1 and cancer statistics), and the decay of our ability to treat each other respectfully and honorably.
Hopefully Goldsmith get’s through this boredom thing and finds the meaning he’s looking for. That’s why it’s poetry of course, whether I like it or not. The funny thing is, any time Goldsmith expresses his thoughts about uncreativity, he’s using creativity to share his vision–the vision itself a creative way to look at the mundane. Therefore, it’s absolutely impossible for Goldsmith, or anybody, to become completely uncreative as long as there is communication, as long as there is language.