Monday, November 21, 2005

Zen Blurs

How much do I have the courage of my convictions?

A while after this incident, I was mentoring a poet online, by email -- a poet who developed, and turned out to be very good. But at this point, everything she was writing was still labored, mannered, even tortured. She couldn't progress beyond sounding like someone who wanted to write Poetry.

Then in a depressed moment, writing me an email about her frustration and doubts, she tossed in a story about another time in her life when she was balancing self-confidence and self-doubt, between her first and second marriage, when she was testing out her sexuality and her ability to attract men. I started looking at the note, and there was a sureness to the language that I didn't see in her poetry, even a rhythmic sureness.

I started breaking it into lines, maybe dropping a word here and there, but otherwise not altering anything, and I was right. It worked. A found poem.

I sent it back to her...hey, take a look at my latest poem.

If I were a real Zen master of a teacher, I would have stuck to it...and it probably would have been a good lesson.

But...I ultimately gave her the poem.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Whose Blur Is It, Anyway?

This was several years ago. I was visiting photographer Dan McCormack, and he invited me to go out and do some landscape shooting with him. I told him that I didn’t do photography at all any more…I had decided that I was either going to make a total commitment to it or nothing, and I’d chosen nothing. I didn’t even own a camera any more.

He said “Come on, it’ll be fun, I’ll loan you a camera,” and finally I said OK. So we went out, shooting B&W, walking through the woods. At one point I tripped over a root and the shutter was tripped. At the end of the day Dan ran the film and printed some contacts for me. It was as I had thought…I had some pretty but conventional images. You don’t develop an eye in one day. And there was one negative which was just a blur of squiggly lines.

So we fast forward a few months. Dan has an opening in a good gallery, and I go to it, and there on the wall, matted and framed, is my blur. And it looks great.

And the question I ask students, when I tell them this story, is: Whose photograph was it? Mine or Dan’s?

And my answer is, anyone who says it’s my image, and starts talking about intellectual property rights, or demanding shared credit, or getting a lawyer…will never be an artist.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Voice Heard Once In a Lifetime

Unearthed in a box of stuff while looking for something else, something I'm kinda proud of. The program for the dedication of the Marian Anderson Theater at Aaron Davis Hall, CUNY: