Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Reflecting Back

As I come close to departing for Ghana, I am, as I should be, thinking a lot about what I'm doing. Teaching theater, as a Western theater practicioner, in a West African country, what the hell is that? Why should I be teaching art? I've gone back to a journal entry I wrote a year ago September, an edited version of which I want to have up here.

I just finished Six Feet Under. Yes, all of it. There are about twenty-eight gazillion things I have learned and loved and gained from it, but the one that’s sticking to my ribs at the moment is, Art can do that.

Art has done that. I have cried my eyes out over this show in the last two weeks, I have felt real pain over it, but it’s worth it, beyond worth it. Augusto Boal is wrong, or at least he’s deeply limited. Sometimes we do need catharsis. Sometimes catharsis is not releasing as in letting go and forgetting about something forever, sometimes it is releasing as in opening floodgates, bursting a dam, storming a fortress. Art can do that.

I can do that. I think I have done it, a few times in my life, and I can, and I want to, and I need to. The question is not why, and whatever my political agonizing I think I have always known that. I know why. It would be awesome to be able to explain it someday, but I know it. The question is how, and that is my work, discovering and honing and really using the way or ways in which I can best do that.

I don’t fucking care what “that” is. Again, it would be great if I could explain it one day, but I know it, and people who have been present when good art changed the air in a room, however many others were or were not present (and whether or not it was actually a room), know it. I’m not dismissing the things you can deepen from defining shit you know, but you have got to GOT to fucking know it and know you know it. When I say I need to know what my work is, I need to know it in every sense of the word “work.”

I have exploded out of my chest. We live with mortality, we live in it. Yes, and? Mortals, as a species, as individuals, we have built a world, we are always building it, even when the world we’re building is a damaged one. We still fucking well inhabit it. I’m not sure art is a basic need, not sure it is really your path in the darkness, but it is certainly light.

I am okay with light. I can provide light. If my students teach me anything, it is that no matter what, if you’re still around, you find a path. I want to provide light.

I can provide light. Not revolution, but Six Feet Under isn’t revolution, it’s just fucking good. And there are qualities, but there is also quality. Some things are just fucking good. It happened to move me, as it might not move everyone, but it is good. And it doesn’t turn your world over, it turns into your world, structural ambiguity entirely intended. I can do that. I can’t do it alone, but obviously no one person on that show did it alone either. I want to do that.

God, I want to rip the screen and the sky and go through, and I could. There will be a million steps along the way that will weaken me, but that happens, and right now I want to go to sleep but I could do anything, and I know the things I have chosen to do, and I know why. And I have lived in and shared a fictional world, with fictional people and fictional relationships that just shook down my universe.

And on that note, I am going on hiatus. There may occasionally be a Friday Poetry up here when I feel like it, just to keep you on your toes, but for the most part Third Rail Themes will be down until June, when we will reevaluate its presence and purposes and all that. I'll miss you!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Friday Poetry: Kenneth Koch

Happy New Year! In a week I'm going on hiatus when I go to Ghana, though I'll try to get a few notes in in the meantime. But here's a poem I like!

Kenneth Koch

One day the Nouns were clustered in the street.
An Adjective walked by, with her dark beauty.
The Nouns were struck, moved, changed.
The next day a Verb drove up and created the Sentence.

Each Sentence says one thing—for example, "Although it was a dark rainy day when the Adjective walked by, I shall remember the pure and sweet expression on her face until the day I perish from the green, effective earth."
Or, "Will you please close the window, Andrew?"
Or, for example, "Thank you, the pink pot of flowers on the windowsill has changed color recently to a light yellow due to the heat from the boiler factory which exists nearby."

In the sprintime the Sentences and the Nouns lay quietly on the grass.
A lonely Conjunction here and there would call, "And! But!"
But the Adjective did not emerge.

As the Adjective is lost in the sentence,
So I am lost in your eyes, ears, nose and throat—
You have enchanted me with a single kiss
Which can never be undone
Until the destruction of language.