On the twelfth evening the moon found himself at a publishing house. There was an editor and a couple of other men there with him. They were discussing two books of poetry. One of the books was written by a man who was a little more acceptable in society than the other. The other man was considered wild.
The editor and his associates began discussing the two poets. One was alright, but not great. One man wondered if one of the poets actually expected him to buy his book. The other poet was wild and not very good at punctuation. They recommended that he study the masters. Eventually, it got to a point where one could not tell which poet the men were discussing.
The moon left to see the poets themselves. They were both with their respective groups of people at home.
A girl sat in the corner at the wild poet’s house reading this:
“In the dust lies genius and glory,
But ev’ry-day talent will pay,
It’s only the old, old story.
But the piece is repeated each day.”
This was the twelfth evening.
Poetry is not my thing. I used to write poetry and I suppose at times my writing can be somewhat poetic, but I do not consider myself a poet. I have a cousin who is a poet, but it’s just not my thing.
Let me tell you something about poetry–you have your Shakespeare with his iambic pentameter, you have your Emily Dickinson, you have your Greek poets from days long past, and you even have your Sappho, these poets I’ve mentioned are considered something of a benchmark. People will say, “Now, that’s poetry,” when you speak of these people, but minds have changed. Poetry has transformed over the years. People are still perfectly happy with the type of poetry written by Shakespeare, but less formal poetry has become a thing.
You don’t have to have the correct punctuation. You don’t have to have a rhyming poem. You don’t even have to write the poem from right to left. Poetry, like visual art or any other art medium, has changed over the years to experiment and accept more unconventional expressions as its own. If I would have read some E.E. Cummings to people four-hundred years ago and told them it was poetry, they would have probably burned me at the stake, but these days, E.E. Cummings is considered a poet. There’s no caveat to it; he’s a poet; he’s dead, but he’s a poet.
One of these men was more conventional in his poetry, while the other was stepping on new ground. The editor and his men wanted the wild poet to be more like conventional poets, more like Shakespeare with all his rhythm and rhyme.
The little poem at the end of this story gives us our theme. Let’s interpret it just a bit.
- In the dust lies genius and glory=the old poets are dead and in the ground
- But ev’ry-day talent will pay=mediocre poetry will pay the bills
- It’s only the old, old story=it’s been this way for a long time
- But the piece is repeated each day=it happens all the time it will continue to happen
In summation, this poem speaks of how everyone refers back to the considered masters for inspiration and artwork. Those masters are dead, but we continue to want to emulate their work. People who emulate their work can make money while the people who try new things are often given an uncertain future.
In the end though, it’s the people who do new things who create progress and move any art form forward.
I had a professor in college who called this type of thing “Kitsch.” Kitsch is a German word. If you look up the official proper definition it basically means to create something considered in poor taste and then appreciate it anyway, perhaps ironically. My professor used kitsch to represent situations where an artist created predictable artwork to appeal to the most people and make the most money. His prime example was Thomas Kinkade. Look, those paintings of his look nice, but come on, they’re everywhere; they’re not very original. They were Thomas’ career, but also a cash cow. You never ever expected Thomas Kinkade to release a new series of artwork depicting naked women or splotches of paint across a canvas. He painted little cottages and churches and landscapes that all looked very similar to one another.
The whole idea is that convention is safe. People will pay you for conventional. People will pay you for that house that looks like all the other houses on the street. People will pay you for that car that looks like all the other cars. People will pay you for that rug that looks like the rug everyone else has in their homes. Conventional guarantees a paycheck, that is, until conventions are changed. How are conventions changed? Conventions are changed when people push forward and do different things. It takes a man like the wild poet in this story to change how we think of something. Eventually we will adopt as conventional things that were once strange and bizarre to us. Even when conventions are changed, there will always be those people who refuse to adopt new conventions, you can’t change their minds and you can’t force them; they’re just forever stuck in past conventions.
People stick on this idea that things should be proper and follow ideas that have always been followed. As a result, when you do something that doesn’t quite fit that mold people complain. As a personal example I had someone comment on my website. They said my writing was full of typos(It wasn’t, although, I am aware that sometimes typos escape my eye from time to time.) and was generally not up to par. There are so-called “proper” ways to write in English. I do not follow those ways because I’m trying to write in a manner that people will actually read. Will people read some stuffy writing that sounds like it’s straight out some snooty criticism book written expressly for other snooty people who criticize things? Yes, the snooty criticism people might read it, but other than that not many people are going to read it. English is a changeable language.
The wild poet just needed some time. It may not be time that happens within the span of his life. With time the poet’s work would be recognized as real work and not so highly criticized. His style of writing may eventually be recognized as admirable work and sit upon shelves next to Shakespeare and the like.
Dare to push forward even if it is unconventional because you’re the ones who are going to make the new conventions.
What do you think of the editor and his cronies?
Be conventional or not?