Jan. 29, 1981
It’s easy to get pissed off at the limited mentality of our so-called academic saints, those grand masters who in their egotistic self-aggrandizement, establish the rules for what it takes for an artist to achieve greatness.
Many of these academic bullies have a stranglehold on truly creative people while they themselves have largely been unable to attain any status except as arbitrators of other people’s talent.
They hold the keys to the promised land of greatness, and force young aspiring artists to jump through academic hoops in order to qualify.
These fools try to channel young artists into categories, comparing them to those who came before as if that is the only criteria.
Yes, it is hugely important to know what came before, how great artists achieved mastery, and what specifically made them great.
But to assume that a young and upcoming artist cannot come up with original and great work on his or her own is arrogant.
Van Gogh, Walt Whitman, even beat poets and writers like Ginsberg and Kerouac defied traditions, while still maintaining the continuity. I love Blake as much as I love Shakespeare, but I don’t see either one confined by rules set up by academia – if anything the opposite is true. These people learned what they needed to learn, then ran to the edge of the world and jumped off, relying on some inner instinct to raise them to the heights of greatness.
But from what I’m getting in this place of higher learning is this idea that we should not try and put two words together without first consulting the literary elite to get a gauge on whether we are going in the correct direction.
Michael talks a good game and has irritated a number of professions with his punk approach to art, but in the end, even he seems to be married to the academic standards he slowly loudly protests.
I guess my coming out of a working class tradition makes me sympathize more with ritual, seeking to draw art out of something more inherent in human nature than in the repeated diatribes professors give us.
I want to believe in people like Jack London are just as valid literary snobs like T.S. Elliot (who I love despite his footnotes).
I want to think that there is hope for people like me, who are not geniuses like Shakespeare, but who struggle to write about the birds and bees, and the deeper human emotions I see in everyday people around me.
Shit, man, I’m only a street kid, who wants to mug and rape you with pen and paper rather than a switch blade or a gun.
I want you to feel every thing I want you to feel, the high emotions, the low, the good feelings, the bad, the bitter and the sweet. I want to make you love me or hate me, want you to praise me or curse me, I want you to cry when I say cry, and laugh when I say laugh. I want to be able to do anything I want to you, take advantage of you, make you ache for me in ways only my words can make you do.
I don’t want any academic master’s permission. In fact, what I want most is to piss that person off, to make him eat his or her own words about what he or she claims is great, to admit that anyone who works hard enough and gets to know enough about the inner workings of people can achieve greatness, even without first genuflecting in front of some poetic pope some self-righteous critic, and better yet, I want some squirt of a writer who is even young that me to come up and do exactly the same to me, to move me in ways that I never imagined anyone could move me, not because he or she uses the correct form, but because he or she has a handle on something I’ve never seen or heard or read or felt before. I want that person to hit me harder than I have ever been hit before, fuck me better than I could ever do, and to pour his or her words over me in ways I could not do – and having done this to me, made me want to do be that good. I don’t want to learn stupid rules of art, I want to feel it in my bones, I want to be challenged by someone as good as I am or better than I am, so I can become better, too.
I want to be Gaughan to Van Gogh, I want to feel so strongly about art that I might be willing to cut off my ear or nose or some other valuable part in order to create a masterpiece that is all mine, made possible because someone else could create great things, too.
I came here to learn how to make what I do better – and find that there are gates in the way, and guardians who make claims as to what shall pass.
Okay, so I’m hungry for concepts such as symbols and signs, want to make love to every rose I see, bring down every glass house I walk into, break down every egotistic, monolithic literary dynasty, create art through revolution, draw out of common experience, raise up the rabble and their feelings and their lives, and bring about true art that is not exclusive and cannot be caged or contained.
Michael thinks I’m crazy. A lot of people do. Some even want to stop me.
Let them try.