william stafford interview excerpt

Once you said, "It would be too much to claim that art, the practice of it, will establish a 'good,' a serene, a superior self. No. But art will, if pursued for itself, bring into sustained realization the self most centrally yours, freed from its distortions, brough from greed or fear or ambition."

I remember that.

I don't quite understand the distinction you're making, because a self that is more centrally yours and freed from greed, fear, or ambition, sounds pretty good to me.

I probably ought to tone that down a bit, but I forgive myself for saying that partly because I was coming out on that skate from avoiding the other skate. The early part of that is I didn't want to claim that one should assume that one is creating something worthy of the ages. Not at all. So the product is expendable, but the process is precious. This is what I'd like to say. I keep meeting poets who say something like, "Well, I'm trying to do something that is worthy and lasting and beyond my lifetime," and so on. I think that's just frivolous. That's something only society decides and I don't see that it makes any difference anyway. But the process is the process of living centrally and paying attention to your own life. Surely that's worth doing. If you don't, who will? That's what living is about, and you can be distracted from living by trying to create things that will last in the terminology and the mode of society that may or may not be harmonious to your life. So I want to shrug that part off.

I think it is a big claim, and if it hadn't been an interview, probably, if I had been carefully phrasing it, I would have tried to accomplish the same thing without making such forensic claims for art. I don't want to make claims for it, but I'd like to recognize what I think I see in it and that is that real art, genuine art, comes not from hammering out something for posterity, but from making the discoveries that are yours to be made because of your unique constitution and the unique encounter you have in experience.


lady said...

hell yes!!
i think i need to have that entire conversation (and the bit that follows too) tattooed on my hand, so i never forget it.

bp said...

that's a lot of tattoo-ing though. just saying