Friday, June 10, 2005

Discourse on Creativity

I've been conversing with my friend A_Pomo on his blog recently about books -- mostly because he wants to read more, I've read more than him, and I love talking about books, learning, education, etc. We're kinda looking into starting an online seminary, but that's really ridiculous to say because neither one of us are ordained. We're really getting into the business of sharing our information and bibliographies. I've always done this with whomever is interested in sharing.

This is NOT to say that I'm better than him because I've read more. I hope that no one gets that impression when I say that, because I have so many friends who are better read than I am on many topics. I'm always tapping into someone's knowledge banks for new books to read on different perspectives about different topics. My friend Draven is very well-read and educated on the topics of the first-century Church and Judaism in general. I've got a couple of friends at church whose personal libraries and booklists I would love to sift through -- one is a seminary graduate and the other is a doctoral student at Rice studying philosophy and theology. I like reading. I like learning.

That being said, A_Pomo was asking about Art and Poetry and what books he could read on them. And I was struck by that question and thought through several questions at once.

1) What is Poetry?
2) What is Art?
3) Can there really be a book on those things, telling us what they are or are supposed to be?
4) Can those same books tell us what "good" poetry and "good" art are or are supposed to be?
5) What gives those books/authors the right to tell the reader what poetry and at really are or what makes them "good"?
6) And if you canNOT find those things in a book, how does one decide what they are and if they're "good" or not?

I've been reading some poetry by Ranier Marie Rilke recently and have been convinced that I don't really get poetry. Or maybe, I never really "got" it before and my preconceptions are being knocked down to the ground. If you take English or American Lit in High School (or even intro classes in college), you can understand what it's like to LOATHE poetry. Too many of them stress cheesy, lovey-dovey poetry in iambic pentameter with simple rhyme schemes. And yes, I'm over-generalizing, but don't I speak what many of us thought all throughout that segment in our English classes? Again I ask, what is poetry?

I do think that there are some necessary components and qualifiers, but nothing that should be listed as things that MUST BE THERE for something to poetry. However, I'm forced to think upon the scene at the end of "Dead Poet's Society" where the administrator comes into Robin Williams' classroom after Williams has been kicked out. The Admin asks the students to turn to this essay in the front of their books telling them what poetry is and should be. They all respond by telling the Admin that Williams had them rip out that essay because he feels that one can't quantify poetry (and I include art here by transference). The Admin gets mad and most of the kids start standing on their desks reciting some grand piece of poetry that Williams taught them, in defiance of their Admin and his kicking out Williams.

Williams' character had it right -- you can't "define" poetry (or art), but there still remains the questions of communicating them to others. What is poetry? What is art? How can we learn to appreciate them properly? How can we learn to create them? CAN we learn those things? What does such an education in aesthetics look like? Can you really BE educated in such things?

Any ideas? Or am I being too silly with such questions? If I'm a created being, and I was created to be a creative being, how does one cultivate those talents? What does such an environment look like? If, as does Draven and his wife, I would call myself a "Cultural Creative", what does that look like? How can I encourage that creativeness in myself and others?

Art? Poetry? What are you talking about?

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