E.E. Cummings. Poet extraordinaire. Long inhabitant of 4 Patchin Place, a tiny enclave in Greenwich Village, where he lived most of his life, writing poetry, next door to his neighbor Djuna Barnes, the eccentric novelist. Cummings was prolific and passionate about his art of choice which was poetry, and he developed a unique style of wording, using grammatical syntax and confusing sequences to make his poems real. Proper grammar interested him not and neither did punctuation or trivialities like capital letters in appropriate places. To say that he claimed his craft with a unique and rare vengeance would be an understatement! There is no mistaking a poem by EE Cummings. When he writes:
Who used to
Ride a water-smooth-silver
And break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
He was a handsome man
And what I want to know is
How do you like your blue yes boy
What am I reading one might ask?
What is he talking about?
What IS he talking about?
A more typical response would just be “huh”?
EE was just doing his thing, that is writing poems the way he wanted to. His style, his ideas, his way of taking the inner and transmitting it to the outer, with his own concocted, kooky word play and conflicting images was not only brilliant, it raised his creative power to a higher level.
Fun to read. Like figuring out a puzzle, a poem puzzle. Reading a painting can be like that. Especially if it’s in the surrealist or abstract realm because it’s totally subjective. Who you are determines what you see. Pop art has especially gotten a bad rap from the self acclaimed art judges who love to call pop, stupid or silly or crazy or just not art period! Why? Because it looks so free, so colorful, so whimsical? Pop brings out the child in the artist in a special way. All art has that childish liberating component, but POP especially seems to dominate in that arena of light hearted pure whimsy. Like Andy Warhol said, ” Pop art is for Everyone!”
Reading Cummings: #34 from his collection:
“a thrown a
a thrown a-
-ous wisp A of glo-
What IS that? Is he playing with all of us, or is he using poetry to stimulate our minds and force us to rethink, analyze, dissect and then form our own conclusion as to what exactly did we just read? A common phrase I overhear while gallery browsing, is “Oh my 4 year old could do that, or that’s art?…. Are they crazy”? When facing Morris Louis squiggly lines, or Clifford Stills‘ harsh black canvases of space, or the Albers geometric boxes, the common reactions of scorn and ridicule can be daunting to the emerging artist who knows that his art is also susceptible to a similar humiliating critique. But so what? Like EE and his insane sounding poetry, the painter and his deranged masterpieces will thrive because of, and in spite of the audiences poisonous darts.
That’s the risk the artist takes as a part of the job we have been hired to do by the Divine Source. There is no insurance policy, no job security,for the poet sitting at his typewriter, or the painter, brush in hand staring at the vast emptiness of the white canvas before him. Are we trying to please the others out there, or are we pleasing ourselves from within? The outside people pleasing game is a lost cause for any artist. How can we possibly know what people like?
The goal for the artist should be to keep inspiration in high gear and continue to work. EE Cummings, in his tiny studio on Patchin place morphed into one of the most well known poets of the 20th century! Jackson Pollock threw paint unto his canvases strewn on the floor of his barn and made history. Edward Hopper looked out the windows of his Washington Square North studio and documented the solitude of the city in startling realism. Night Hawks, the painting inspired from his daily walks in Greenwich Village to his favorite diner, now so intrinsic to AmerIcan culture that Everybody recognizes it. William de Kooning helped make that new crazy art form, named abstract expressionism , more than just a fad of the 1950’s, but a serious new chapter in art, like cubism, impressionism, surrealism, pop, and there are so many more examples, that define the creative genius spawned from that supernatural gift, that says it’s Your making and doing and so what if people don’t get it now one day they will.
So. If you think you are an artist, you probably are an artist. Otherwise why would you imagine such an absurd thing? Play the Monopoly Game of Life, and Just Pass Go! The Being is in the Doing. When someone looks at your painting or reads your poem and says “HUH”? just think of Pop Poet E.E. Cummings and Buffalo Bill and smile! More importantly Keep Doing it!!!