Is the art the product, the process, both or neither?

Confused? So am I. Actually, I think I have been living in a confused state since I turned twenty, with slight moments of enlightenment/clarification. Hopefully it’s a phase.

Poetry is an art. You see something, you write about it and then you edit profusely until it communicates what you want it to or just something that’s hopefully relative to what inspired you to write the poem. Some would say that the artistic part of this is the finalized product.  After blood, sweat and tears, you finally know that your poem is finished, that it’s saying what you mean it to and that people will be moved by your words. That is the art. The act of moving others, of inspiring and of mastering.

Others would say that the art in anything is the act of creation. In poetry, this would be the blood, sweat and tears, second guessing, constant re-writing, seeking advice, days, months of obsession over a small word which may or may not be useful.

And then there is the question of, is the art both of these things? Is the art in poetry made whole by the product and the process? And then is an unedited poem incomplete? Or a poem which does not move or inspire anything?

I ask these questions because as I thought about what I wanted to do or what I seemed to be lacking in my poems, I realized that what I wanted to mess around with was fancier word usage. I want to have adjectives which are more focused and exclusive not because I think these words are important or because I think that my point will be communicated any more effectively than it would be with simpler language but because it looks pretty and sounds pretty. That is the root of my desire. If we’re being honest, it’s shallow.  Would it make me less of a poet if I did this? Where do we draw the line in art? Do we, should we?

If a poem dedicates itself to nothing but the use of pretty words, if it has no meaning, no moral, no intent to inspire or to tell a story, is it still a poem? Moreover, if I put together a poem without wanting to inspire and without editing, is it still art?

Can a poem be void of purpose?

Just some things that have been on my mind.

2 Replies to “Is the art the product, the process, both or neither?”

  1. I’m going to respond to the bit about fancier word usage – I think the art of poetry might be a bit beyond me, but I just spent some time with Dr. Lytton talking about this fancy word topic today, and feel slightly more qualified to talk on it.

    A poem will always have meaning; even if the meaning is in the sound. The ‘narrative’ and story does not need to be concrete; it is not the only source of meaning in a poem. The feeling the poem can give you, based off of the way words sound, can be 100% the meaning. And oftentimes, the poem will take on a meaning, based on the words you pick to use.

    I always start with words; arcane, fancy big words. Words from other languages – like Hiraeth, a welsh word that is defined in English anywhere from homesickness for a home that never was to a sense of loss/grief for the departed. These lost words speak to me – my heart yearns to hear them spoken aloud, caressed with our lips, loved with our tongues. I start with the words, and move from there.

    What Dr. Lytton said to me today is that, as long as the word works for the poem (like petrichor in my last poem) and the sound I’m trying to achieve, the word is not ‘shallow’. It’s only when we use those words where they don’t work – like any word that doesn’t work in any poem – that they come across pretentious and boring.

    You may find that the words give you new poems, and new meanings within the context of all those beautiful, big words. My discussion on Hiraeth today led me to think about my own background as someone who has disassociated myself with my ancient Welsh ancestry, and contrasting that with my boyfriend, who is adopted, and his extreme love of his American identity. Perhaps because he is longing for a home, an ancestry, he will never know – a home I have a distant connection to, but never ultimately have needed to call home.

    The word itself can lead you to a poem with meaning, and you can use other beautiful words (penumbra?) within your poem too; to create that wistful or sharp or playful imagery you desire. Using big words – fancy words – is not pretentious, it’s selective. It’s picking the word that best fits for the tone, the meaning, the mood of your poem.

    Or maybe you could have a word 100% about the words and their sound. And that’s all the meaning it needs.

  2. Hi Carolina!
    I think asking what art is is very similar to asking what poetry is. Every person you ask is going to have a different response.

    In my opinion, art is both the process and the product. I think writing poetry in itself is an art–we are crafting something after all. The product, I think, could be considered an accumulation of our artistic ability.

    To me a first draft is incomplete, but this is certainly not the case for everyone. I recently have started saving multiple drafts for my poetry–whose to say that every single draft leading up to the last is incomplete? I don’t even know! I think there’s a certain feeling of finality that comes with completing a poem, but is a poem ever truly complete?

    You said “If a poem dedicates itself to nothing but the use of pretty words, if it has no meaning, no moral, no intent to inspire or to tell a story, is it still a poem? ”
    I think it most certainly is. I think this goes back to our discussion about Meghan’s poem “Desideratum” (sp?). It used all these beautiful words–yet they had meaning. And I feel like every poem is written with some sort of intent. Poets want to illicit something from their readers.

    All of this is just my opinion, but I hope I helped you a bit!

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