It’s All Subjective.

I used to write poetry. I was pretty damn good at it, if you ask me. It used to roll off of my fingertips and make sense to everyone’s ears, including those who read it. I had a friend dissect one of my writings and found all of the different meanings behind everything that I wrote.

“How do you know what the writer meant to write?” I asked a teacher my sophomore year of high school. As I find myself a “writer” now and I think of her answer, I think she was bullshitting me. “Have you ever written a piece and couldn’t find the right word? You kept trying words over words?” I nodded yes. I had experienced that many times. Sometimes because it didn’t rhyme but mostly because it just didn’t… fit. “Well, that’s what these writers went through too, and because of that, their words carry meanings that we analyze.” What if you just wanted to write, “old wooden chest” because that’s exactly what it was, not because it was a representation of the dirt and grime that is the world we walk upon?

Academics read too much into things, told me Thomas Guzman-Sanchez, one of the leaders in what we now call Urban or Street dance. After dealing with professors and academics while creating his documentary, Underground Dance Masters: Final History of a Forgotten Era, he realized that they were too far-reaching into some of these dance groups to emerge during the late ’70s. When they wanted to wear white masks and gloves, it wasn’t a political statement, he implied, it was just because it was a costume.

Like all the different art there is in the world, don’t you think that the majority of people are really bullshitting their way through what it symbolizes? Ever see that late night news magazine on television (Yes, they’re called magazines. The next time you watch Anderson Cooper: 360, hit the info button on your Comcast remote.) where they told a bunch of 3-5 year-old kids to paint with finger paints? Remember what happened next? They ended up framing and hanging up the kids’ art in a gallery and had these expert art critics come in and critique the art. I remember one piece that was looked at as “brilliant” and “genius.” When the reporter told him that it was a 3-year-old’s finger paint work, the critic said that the kid had potential. It was complete bull.

Art is subjective. When people told me that being an English major was a bullshit major, I thought, “No, because you have to know what things symbolize and you have to know how to analyze work.” Well, I guess. I’m starting to think differently.

I don’t really remember where I heard it, but once I heard someone say that art can either belong to the artist or the receiver/viewer of the art. I fully believe that it belongs to the person watching and listening as soon as the artist creates it. It’s weird to think of it that way, but it’s true.

After talking to musicians, asking, “What do you want your audience to gain from your music?” I say “want” because you cannot make sure that people get what you want them to get. There is no way. If they do, props, you know how exactly to communicate with your medium. But if they don’t, what are you going to do? Tell them that they got it wrong?

Once your music is created, once your art is created, once your poetry is written, you can no longer tell someone what to think of it, that is if they witness it. Your art is no longer yours once you publicize it. My writing communicates, but I’m not telling you what to gain from it. Take what you want, because what you take is up to you.

This also falls into the category of having control over what you do, what you see and what you hear. If we did everything that other people told us to do, hell, everything would be propaganda, right? And actually, a lot of it is. But that’s something completely different.

So back to my original point of this blog. I used to write poetry and it suddenly got hard. Maybe because I became more critical of myself or maybe because I couldn’t find the right words to say what I wanted to. But I can always try, right? And even so, you might not pull what I want you to pull, but here goes nothing.

Captivated by the motions that surround me every day,

I can’t wait to see your face and hear your voice and touch your skin.

The warmth that reverberates from your body controls me and soothes me

Making me feel priceless in the arms of the one I hold dear.

Your eyes, they speak a certain song and voice it warms my heart so strong,

Your hands, firm and beautiful to look at, caress my skin miles deep into my soul

And I am whole.”

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8 thoughts on “It’s All Subjective.

  1. Beautiful poem – and I’ll tell you one good reason to be an English major (although I’d hope no one still gives you shit about that). Reading and thinking about the really good stuff, the books that really touch you, is part of gathering the tools, and gathering the words to express yourself and your own art. Kind of a simple reason, but it’s true I think.

    One other thing: you’re right, you can’t control as an artist what people think about your art. But any musician knows that you can do a lot of things to create a context for people to get at least -something- from what you’re producing. I think the challenge of the artist in the 21st century is to create new ways of reaching audience members – face our fear of not being able to control an audience’s impressions, and reach out with all we’ve got!

    1. Thank you very much.

      I ended up majoring and graduating with a journalism degree, but I still kept the English minor. I loved it. Analyzing was my forte at the time and I still enjoy reading books to find the meaning of the life in them, although I don’t have the guidance I once had with my professors. Also, I forgot to mention, I love reading James Joyce and will continue to read and re-read him until I die, I hope. He was one artist who purposefully left his readers guessing as to WHAT KIND of symbolism his characters were representing. That’s the kind of work that keeps me excited and guessing and reading.

  2. I think you made some very astute observations and conclusions about the worlds of art and artist, writer and reader, musician and the person who listens to the chord or lyric. The work may still be yours but what it brings to another is strictly defined by that person and not the creator. On the other hand art becomes bullshit when it does nothing for anyone, or written work that imparts no meaningful and concrete direction. I go through many of the blogs at wordpress and sometimes my comments are replied to by questioning why did I bother to leave a comment if so unapproving of it. Now also I give credit when credit is due. I want to thank you for enlightening those who have not considered that this is what a work presents itself to me as. We as writers would all be Nobel Laurates or at least best-sellers if we could import our views on the merit of a work. Perhaps we should all revert to children that do something without having to impart any of the bullshit the world is piled deep with.

    1. Thank you. I take good or bad comments and even corrective ones! As long as they are critical with good reason and motivational to work for better blogs, I welcome them.

      I do think that as writers we should all strive to be the best we can be; fully agree with you on that part. And whether we know about the bullshit out there or not, if it’s a firm belief, it should flow strongly from our hands and minds. It’s the only way to express ourselves and while painters tear apart their canvass, our language is all we have.

      Keep on writing, as long as you believe in what you’re putting out there, that’s all that matters.

  3. I’m glad you’re expressing your thoughts poetically, again. Get ready to do it in public, my friend. You know it, now flow it.

    Regarding the sharing part of an artist’s work, I think it’s like anything else… once you put it out there, it’s out there. A thought, a song, a poem. Sharing is daring!

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