nana power

Nana power

I want someone to give me a framed print of this for my birthday. More about artist Niki de Saint Phalle here and here.

“In 1966, she collaborated with fellow artist Jean Tinguely and Per Olof Ultvedt on a large-scale sculpture installation, “hon – en katedral” (“she – a cathedral”), for Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden. The outer form of “hon” is a giant, reclining Nana, whose internal environment is entered from between her legs. The piece elicited immense public reaction in magazines and newspapers throughout the world.”

refreshing poetry, engaged poetry

First, a terrible loser with NaPoWriMo this year, then an even worse loser with NaPoReMo this year. Although I have actually been reading the two collections I said I would read in June, just not writing about them.

Here, just a couple of lines about Tony Hoagland’s What Narcissm Means To Me.  So much of today’s poetry offerings focus on the look and feel of the grain of dust on top of the grain of coffee — real micro-stuff. And yes, I know, from the particular to the general, to the universe through the detail, etc, but one doesn’t realize how much one is squinting and frowning at all the detail and the micro-ness — how much squinting becomes a fact of reading poetry. That is, until one reads poetry that is much wider and bigger — (not sure I should not say, more generous, more unafraid), such as Hoagland’s work in this volume.

Which doesn’t mean he launches off into orbits of abstraction and airy formlessness that make you squint even more. On the contrary.

Just found this interview with him online, where he says:

There was a time when I looked at a scene and saw a man and a woman kissing. Now I am aware that the man has a credit card in his pocket and that just behind the woman a beer commercial is on the tv, interrupting war coverage

Well, yes — engaged poetry, a topic I have bleated on about here in some detail in the past. Here and here and here, for example.

Hoagland doesn’t abandon detail, he employs it to convey a wider spectrum of vision.

advocacy art

Been thinking about “advocacy art,” following a back and forth with Sefton in the comments to this post.

It seems to me that “advocacy art” is just another term for “engaged literature” (littérature engagée per coinage of Sartre, more on that in this post), but it seems to narrow the focus much more on to the artist. Trying to work out why that is.

I think of advocacy art as created by a member of the community being advocated for — so (to illustrate extremely) a female rape victim would create on behalf of abused girls and women; a discriminated-against Western Muslim for the Muslim community at large; a disenfranchised African-American for victims of racism generally, etc. 

When I think of littérature engagée, I think of broader, universally human themes — workers unite, maybe, or humans unite against the tyranny of the gods sort of thing.

I think of “transcendent” artists, not targeted, (single-issue?) “local” artists.

(And I realize that local particulars can, and often do, illustrate huge universal truths, but that seems an issue apart to me here.)

I wonder. Does belonging to an oppressed community require that one’s creative fealty be sworn to that community? What are the moral and spiritual imperatives here?

I engage, you engage, we engage

OK, we’re getting some clarity here. We acknowledge that all this talk of engagement was fated at some point to revert to Sartre (who after all coined the very term littérature engagée). 

This helpful scholar writes of Sartre’s “Engaged Theatre”:

He wrote for the stage in order to act in history, to engage his audience in issues of collective concern, and to change – or explore what it means to change – social reality.

Which I think about covers it all.

But for extra credit, here’s an essay by Kristin Prevallet on the concept of littérature engagée and how it has slipped and morphed in our perception over the years. (And yes, I know — what are people thinking when they put such tiny black font on a red background? Copy and paste it into a Word document for civilized reading.)

I must admit I’ve been side-tracked by focusing on the difference between grappling artistically with the very structures of human consciousness (woe is us, we’re screwed because we’re human!) which is where I see people like Eliot more or less coming from, and grappling artistically with the bum raps humans deal each other (woe is human sub-group us, we’re screwed because someone other human sub-group more powerful than us has decided to screw us!) which is where I see people like Brathwaite more or less coming from.

I still think this is an important distinction, but no longer in the context of defining engagement, I think, as both arenas seem to fall safely into the “act in history” context quoted above.

And yes, I see all that on solitude vs community. As in the artist Jonas in Camus’ L’Exil et le Royaume whose last verbal canvas read ambiguously (was that a t or a d, now?) – Solitaire or Solidaire. Two sides of the same coin. Effective art requires both. (And hm. Let’s see. Would that be yet Another Ghastly Continuum in Human Affairs?)