Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Re-throwing the Dice

Things were moving for someone I've known a long time - he was deciding to ditch the arts as no way to earn a living and do something else he could believe in - re-throwing the dice if you like, to give himself the best chance to earn some freedom.         
   Thinking about it, I thought that's just what our in house philosopher did - when conventional universities were too narrow and frankly bigoted about dyslexia, when lecturers who disliked lecturing came to dislike any postgrad who cared enough about the teaching to become without trying the most popular tutor with the students, when admin dominated over genuine research, and departmental politics ruled over common sense and the naturally gifted, that was the time to make the break. It was a hard decision to make, and he talked of 'giving up philosophy', as if any real artist could give up their art. But on making everything from masks to gauntlets, historical breads and sweetmeats to amazing takes on ancient and traditional tales, he has found something that helps pay the bills and that have audiences, workshop participants, customers, promoters and best of all, other artists from the Collective, appreciating the other things he's talented at. And as for 'giving up philosophy'...well, true philosophy runs through everything, naturally. He picks up new skills and runs with them, twisting each medium to make his own remarkable creations from storytelling bodymasks to Hermann Hesse's fairytales in performance, from startling wire and leather mobiles to wax sculptures, all the time turning each new skill into a Spinoza-ist 'common notion', expanding and extrapolating it into all directions. 
   As for not sitting about waiting for publishers - it's publish and be damned! because 'YOU must be the change you want to see in the world'! And not dwelling on some academics' attitudes to non-institutionalized thought? Well 'virtue is the reward' - which is one of the hardest things to understand. You don't not cry for some reward in heaven - you don't give way for the sake of others, and before you know it, you'll feel better in yourself that you didn't - virtue IS the reward. You yourself will feel better for the self-discipline and positivity you show - as I've found. 
   And lastly - 'all things excellent are difficult as they are rare' - from the poetry of Geoffrey Hill to the finest Deleuzian thought on the Philosophy pages of the Collective's website...

   And it's also what I'm starting to do - re-throwing the dice, by throwing myself into workshops for instance, instead of notching up a painfully slow list of publication credits which don't pay a penny or instead of performing at showcases for no or little money. I rashly thought this week - it gives me so little back - perhaps I should give up poetry? By which I meant not ceasing to write or perform the stuff, of course, but not bothering to send it anywhere, not bothering with open mikes or gigs that don't pay except the special ones, and things. As our in-house philosopher said, giving up philosophy was the best move he could have made - book length work has followed book length work ever since, each outdoing the last in scintillating critique and original thought (the studies of his on Dickens' novels alone would make him a household name in any culture worth its salt - I'm not joking!). So perhaps, halted as I am with the next chapbook, and wondering why on earth I should finish the two remaining pieces and collate the images...perhaps it will be after all, the best thing yet. Who knows? 
   Meanwhile I have many other roles other than poet, - workshop host, Collective administrator, event management, show promoter, performer, bookseller...and words run like a shaft of light through them all.  

   And as for the person first mentioned doing a course in a vocational skill and going for a new job? Expect a new album out soon...

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