Pick Me!

A weblog by Laura Moncur


The Changing Nature of Art

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

From: William F. Claire Sent: Friday, August 20, 2004 8:49 AM To: Laura Moncur Subject: Re: with no F.


Here is a short bio, although when I checked your list of people being quoted I didn’t note yours truly. Anyway, here goes.

A Brief Bio of William Claire. Born Northampton, Ma. graduate of Deerfield Academy, Columbia University, and Georgetown University. After military (Stars and Stripes in Asia) began career in public and private service in Washington, where simultaneously he became founding editor and publisher of Voyages; a literary magazine, winner of five national awards, as well as a National Endowment for Arts award. A poet and essayist, he has been a Yaddo and MacDowell fellow, and a Rockefeller Foundation grant winner for residency in Bellagio, Italy.

His prose has appeared in well over 50 major publications ranging from The American Scholar and Antioch Review to the The Smithsonian Magazine and the New York Times. His poetry has been recently published currently available only from amazon.com, titled Poems: A Collection.

He founded a city-wide festival in honor of Georges Simenon at the Kennedy Center, the National Press Club and other venues in DC. He coordinated six evenings at the Folger Shakespeare Library, and recorded poems for the Library of Congress archives.

He lives in Lewes, Delaware, and Naples, Florida and owns an antiquarian art and book business.

I think thats enough…I kept out a lot of what makes me different from other poets, i.e. my DC career at rather unusually high levels as lobbyist (after working at both the executive and legislative branches) for different groups and becoming a CEO of a consulting firm but I think the emphasis should be on my literary work. I didn’t mention the titles of my other books but they can be found on out of print sites (Barnes &Noble, ABE, etc.)

I was fascinated with your email, and appreciated its frankness. It’s absolutely Ok to feel the way you do, and there is no need to feel that spending a thousand more hours with Miles Davis will make you feel like a better person. Much of his music was drug-induced and jazz improvisation is a world apart. I don’t have a good musical ear and never played an instrument, or had good art instruction at any level. (I did coordinate a series of evenings at the Smithsonian on the relationship of art and poetry that was a sellout…so one can always learn.) I do love jazz vocalists, particularly the early Sarahh Vaughan and was devastated recently when one favorite, who knew more songs than any other singer, Suzannah McCorkle, jumped off a building in Manhattan…three weeks before another of her CD’s was about to be released.

Speaking of suicides, its tough not to think of poetry and know that in our lifetimes Sylvia Plath, John Berryman, Robert Lowell, Randall Jarrell, Delmore Schwartz and many others have done themselves in one way or another. So it’s hard to generalize about it without going off the deep end yourself. Or get too deep into it in a Freudian/Jungian sense. It should be like Emily Dickenson’s observation that when you read it should be like your head’s flying off, or something close to that.

No art (including classic music, painting, dance) has been the same since the early 1900’s when James Joyce was writing, Picasso was doing his cubes, Stravinsky was going a-tonal, classical ballet was being blown off the stage by new movements, etc…talk about the world going topsy-turvy! And then the killing started.

I did try to summarize a million tears of woe, death and destruction that shattered Europe and of course, countless thousands of Americans in Flanders Fields and Normandy, etc. in a short poem titled:

A Brief European History

Music I hear is from The Banquet Years,/ The days, my friend, we thought would never end. The grand illusions; Western-front wounds to mend.

All those mournful, melancholy songs; No one listened to Berthold Brecht,Piaff the poor, And off they went marching,.marching as to war.

Enough. William

From: Laura Moncur Sent: Friday, August 20, 2004 9:34 AM To: William F. Claire Subject: RE: with no F.


I look at art from the early 20th Century from a technical point of view. Photography forever changed painting. Audio recordings forever changed music. Film forever changed dance and theater. Storytelling, however, was changed long ago: firstly with the invention of written language and later with the invention of the printing press. I feel like we are sitting on the crest of the third wave of change for storytelling. I just don’t know what it’s going to look like when it crashes on the shore.

To me, it seems like all art is trying to express what it’s like to be human. We are all trying to communicate what it feels like to be in our individual bodies. For example, with photography and painting, the artist is trying to say, “This person. This home. This stranger. They make me happy. They make me lonely. They make me scared.” Sometimes it comes through and the art tells the world universally everything that we were trying to say. Sometimes it falls on deaf ears and no one listens to us. Sometimes what we are trying to say is completely lost, but the essence of emotion remains and people love our work anyway.

Then again, sometimes I think art is a business like any other. Andy Warhol perfected it with painting. I don’t think he wanted to tell us about his emotions. I think he wanted to be famous and rich. There’s nothing wrong with famous and rich, it’s just a different flavor than the desperate attempt to communicate. Art as business needs to pander to the most number of people possible.

Sometimes I feel surrounded by Business Art. I must admit, it panders to me 90% of the time. I can enjoy a good Joss Stone album almost as much as Billie Holliday. Something about that makes me feel guilty, even though I know that Business Art is specially formulated to please me as a consumer. It’s like the fast food at McDonald’s. For the last fifty years, McDonald’s has been perfecting their hamburgers to please the human palate. Yet, I still feel guilty when a Big Mac tastes so much better to me than fresh veggies and milk. Drug induced or not, Miles Davis and John Coltrane have inspired hundreds of musicians. I feel like I should like them as much as a Big Mac, even though they crunch uncomfortably in my mouth.

Thanks for Listening, Laura


No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress
(c) 2003-2007 Laura Moncur