I’ve been thinking (and talking) a lot about the image recently, so I thought I might as well write a post to get us started on talking about it outside of workshop.
I’ll start with this big ol’ block quote from Aleksandr Voronsky:
“First of all, art is the cognition of life. Art is not the free play of fantasy, feelings, and moods: art is not the expression of merely the subjective sensations and experiences of the poet; art is not assigned the goal of primarily awakening in the reader―good feelings. Like science, art cognizes life. Both art and science have the same subject: life, reality. But sciences analyzes, art synthesizes; science is abstract, art is concrete; science turns to the mind of man, art to his sensual [i.e., sensory] nature. Science cognizes life with the help of concepts, art with the aid of images in the form of living, sensual contemplation.”
Voronsky was a Marxist critic who participated in the Russian Revolution (and was later executed in 1937 under Stalin). What he’s saying, essentially, is that art cognizes reality (life), and therefore it serves an objective social purpose. I think, in this quote, is a statement about the ethics of art too: that art ought to think about life through images corresponding to reality, in order to communicate with society (consequently, bad art fails to do all these things).
Agree or disagree with this (I really want to see what everyone thinks about this quote!), I think it’s an important argument to consider, especially since we’re meeting weekly to evaluate and and improve our own art. So that quote is my way of prefacing this two part question for us:
1) What is art’s function? Why do we write poems in the first place?
2) How can art most effectively communicate?
To put it another way, why do we create art, what should we create, how do we create it?
These are large questions that artists have been debating for quite a long time, but they’re important, and I think we should all be working with these, since we’re in a class about creating art.
I don’t want to preach necessarily, but I do think it’s very important for all of us poets to learn to write through images that correspond to the real, lived, observed world. If a poem consists of images that come from the lived world, and if the artist is thinking through these images to examine or constitute abstract concepts that relate to the real world–to humanity–I think a poem is on its way toward being good, evocative, thoughtful piece of art.
What do you think? Is art a means of cognizing life? Is image the way? Is all good art social?