The Arts

Is history

A mystery?

Or perhaps a victory,

From sophistry,

Artillery,

And misery

To liberty.


A while back I read Malcolm Heath’s translation of Aristotle’s book Poetics. And although it was full of incoherent scribbles (hooray for used books), it was great insight into the mind of one of history’s most profound philosophers. Despite his political science being of a rather questionable nature to say the least (stay tuned for my piece on Aristotle’s Politics), Aristotle’s poetry and analysis of poetics remains to be mesmerizing work from the realm of ancient Greek literature.

Poetry is something I dabble in, more as a form of wordplay than story-telling. Poetics, which essentially is a collection of notes on dramatic art that Aristotle likely used in his academic lectures, is one of the earliest texts known to touch on the three main types of fictional writing (tragedy, comedy, and epic.) The word poetry was used in this context as more of an encompassing umbrella for creative writing, theater, and expressive art as a whole, whereas today we define poetry as metrical writing in narrative, dramatic, or lyrical form.

I’ve been exploring the art of writing for the past few years and have really come to see it as an artistic sport equivalent to visual and musical art, because truly, it is. Art is defined as the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.

I’m currently rereading the book Zen In The Art Of Writing by Ray Bradbury (which I highly recommend), in which Bradbury shared tips from his experience of a lifetime of writing books, poems, films, and plays. I’ll quote just a few of the many touching lines from the book, though really the entire thing is profound and worthy of quotation.

When people ask me where I get my ideas, I laugh. How strange – we’re so busy looking out, to find ways and means, we forget to look in.

A good idea should worry us like a dog. We should not, in turn, worry it into the grave, smother it with intellect, pontificate it into snoozing, kill it with the death of a thousand analytical slices.

Read those writers who write the way you hope to write, those who think the way you would like to think. But also read those who do not think as you think or write as you want to write, and so be stimulated in directions you might not take for many years. Here again, don’t let the snobbery of others prevent you from reading Kipling, say, while no one else is reading him.

Ours is a culture and a time immensely rich in trash as it is treasures. Sometimes it is a little hard to tell the trash from the treasure, so we hold back, afraid to declare ourselves. But since we are out to give ourselves texture, to collect truths on many levels, and in many ways, to test ourselves against life, and the truths of others, offered us in comic strips, TV shows, books, magazines, newspapers, plays, and films, we should not fear to be seen in strange companies.

Do not, for money, turn away from all the stuff you have collected in a lifetime. Do not, for the vanity of intellectual publications, turn away from what you are – the material within you that makes you individual, and therefore indispensable to others.

I am not one thing. I am many things that America has been in my time.

Reading historical literature has taught me that art is not just one thing, it encompasses all things. Art is not just an experience, it’s the totality of the human experience. Expressed through many avenues and means of creation, art gives life and contemplation to that which we would be deaf and blind to without it.

I sing ferociously off tune, and I could not draw a landscape worthy of viewing to save my life, but if there’s one art form I’m comfortable in, it’s writing. I’ve never claimed to be a talented or skilled writer, writing is just something my hands do naturally, perhaps to keep themselves busy and my brain from exploding from overthinking. And actually, I think any artist worth their salt would say the same.

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