Who cares about your self-expression?

The Age of Poetry, such as it was, has long since passed us by. The epic poem is dead, mythologies are now related via cinematic retellings and anime-style mash-ups, stories are told in tweets and unfinished, unpunctuated, ungrammatical social media posts. The fan girls and boys have taken over. Relaying how the Death Star was blown up from a thousand different points of view will get you more clicks than any literary undertaking. The net has smothered all art, a pillow pushed firmly down onto humanity’s face. Welcome to Tomorrow, welcome to Today.

Or so the thinking goes, at any rate. As early as the mid-nineties comfortably-placed visionaries like Esther Dyson were predicting that the way to make money from creativity was to offer free content to all comers, thereby establish (a degree of) fame, and then use the fame – not the creations – to get paid. That formula, if such it is, seems to be the only really viable one out there for the modern day artist who shuns both a day job and a life on the dole. And who can blame them? Day jobs are a major drag and eat away incessantly at the time that could be devoted to projects. And the dole – barely adequate at the best of times, marginal and uncertain at the worst. Raise a family on that. And so we find ourselves stuck.

The Age of Poetry; did it ever exist? And who really cares about poetry anymore anyway? Of all the useless drivel navel-gazers let leak out of their mouths surely that is the lowest, and nothing could be more trifling than short poetry, for crying out loud. A poem is bad enough, but a short one? What’s the point? Could there possibly be a point? Well, take a few minutes to read some selections from NOON and you tell me. The spirit of the Beats, the spirit of the haiku-ers and the tanka-ists, lives on, and theirs are words that cut, words that bury, words that infect. Reading them we find ourselves moved, brains activated, emotions touched, vitality restored. Humanity restored. There is something far deeper to the creatures we are than the garnering of clicks or the making of money, and my wager (pun intended) is that all true artists know that, have always known that. The pulse of a human being is not reducible to the ticker tape of the market; it wasn’t in the days when ticker tape was actually in use and it isn’t in our digital times. The internet may have ruined a great deal of what we once held dear and what made us real people – rather than specks of datum – but it is here now, and clearly here to stay, and so the business of shaping it to our artistic ends had better be gotten on with.

So who cares about your self-expression, especially since it doesn’t pay? We do, and I would certainly think that you do too. Outlets for art now abound, and there need be no fame-chasing involved in the process. Here’s one: next week we’ll start running our latest By Prescription Only series on the theme of Hollow. What will you find there? Short stories that each, in their own way, touch on modernity and the shambles we’ve made of our potential. No one will get paid for any of it, and yet each piece reflects many hours of labor. Was it all worth it? Will the number of readers each submission garners justify the time and effort put in? Would a single reader justify the time and effort put in? Those are questions for the writers, of course, but for myself I would set the bar so low as to say that the mere act of creation is its own reward. Self-expression. Money be damned. Woman does not live by bread alone, and all the rest of that. See you next week!

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