Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Little thread I'm pulling.

I can't remember what the source--if there's a source--of this phrase: mistaking a threat for a shelter. But I remember that I heard it, and used it, in graduate school, and I've been thinking about it a lot recently.

This is because I'm working on the Francis Bacon poem. At least I think it's a poem about Francis Bacon. It's a poem with Francis Bacon, the painter, in it. I think it's going to be a poem with Francis Bacon the painter in it.

I'm working on this poem as a consideration of art. I've written, one way or another, a lot of poems about art. How does art fit into my larger set of subjects and concerns (and who cares, anyway? I do, I guess, which is why I keep on writing in the first place)? For instance, the way we are, or can be, so porous to the experience of being with the ones we love that it's almost unbearable? or how faith is so persistent and so maddening and so unfulfilling and so necessary, somehow? What does art have to do with all of that?

My friend read the manuscript I'm currently working on, the new one, or newish, and said she hoped I wouldn't arrive at the sarcastic, mordant conclusion of a Shawn Colvin song--well, at least I got a song out of it. That my experience, love, those life questions, wouldn't just be a pretext for making art. That that--art itself--would be what the poems would seem to be salvaging, holding up as the one hope.

This possibility is mortifying to me.

You didn't see anywhere in the manuscript the notion that art is radically insufficient? I asked her. By which I meant: like everything else.

I like thinking about Francis Bacon because of that studio, the one his heir gave to the Hugh Lane City Gallery in Dublin, and that was so meticulously reconstructed in that gallery, so that his studio, a place for making art which was also his house, became itself an exhibit.

A shelter, at least from the elements if from nothing else, that became an objet d'art.

Who, who said that--mistaking a threat for a shelter? Anyone? Was it only me?

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