There have been times I have believed art to be about originality–about discovering, revealing, or crafting something new. I don’t believe that sentiment is untrue; I don’t believe that sentiment much applies.
In a recent conversation about apocalyptic literature and desire (that sounds about like the conversations I typically have), I found myself asking: “what is it that’s being uncovered? What revelation is being made about the trajectory of our desire?”
I feel deeply convinced that there is something about hope and the trajectory of desire–the way we must receive that which enlivens us, and how it propels us–that is like a hook.
And there is something about our bodies’ hunger; our wide mouthed gaping in awe, desperation, and delight that allows us to take the bait, receive the morsel-wrapped hook of hope that, swallowed, will wrap its way into our guts and tow us along through the murkiest waters.
That’s my understanding of desire, of eschatology–the pulling back of the veil to reveal our ache and waken us to that furthest possibility of being gloriously alive.
In this sense, art is not concerned with newness. Art is the idea that slips, quick and sharp into us, and whose barbs bloody us to pieces as we try to work it out of us.
This gives me pause–grants me space to bless recursive phrases in my writing; accept the slow-growth cycle of allowing the same idea to keep wheedling its way through the body of my work.
History is more than up to the task of forgetting my stuttering redundancy.
If I write another poem about desire, grief, resurrection, or bodies–I do not apologize. The hook has been set and I can do nothing but be towed towards the eschaton; the trajectory of desire that moves along an axis from despair towards hope, is like Lewis’ gesture from shadow to solidity. It is a fractal journey of becoming more coherently whole through surrender to the invitation into full life.
If art is a creative working out of that surrender (an indefensible claim, to be sure), then its newness will maintain a certain coherence with the path that has been traveled and directions yet to come. Thus artistic novelty, in my opinion, is best expressed as an unfolding of the artist’s expanding humanity.
And mostly, I’d like to claim that this cannot be conjured. Instead, it can only be received; surrendered to; accepted and responded to with the courage to unwrap the painful gift of hope, that our desires might be exposed–revealed in such a way that brings us more to life.
Thus the primary task of the artist is not to create, but to surrender to the hook that is set inside them. To swallow it deeper and let it pull us towards what we crave but cannot yet conceive.