We are hurtling towards a new year. Full of possibilities and renewed opportunities. How will we shape our lives ahead? What prospects, hopes and dreams await? As creative spirits we are always searching. The artistic landscape is wide, but it is up to us to stake our claim upon her promising bounty.
Whatever chains have held back your ambitions, now is the time to untether them. Never underestimate your uniqueness. Yes, there may be others further along in their artistic development. But you alone hold the key to your independent vision. You carry your own artistic statement. An artistic vision entwined in your DNA. Don't squander this expression yearning for release. Find a way to open the door, so that the world can celebrate and experience your art. Because the world needs more art and beauty. Now more than ever.
Encounter with a street poet
The week before Christmas I was ambling into a local bookstore when I encountered an unexpected sight. A bearded chap was hunched over an old typewriter, churning out poetry for willing patrons. Just the sight of him made me smile. It's not every day, in this world of digitalization, that you encounter a street poet plinking away on a typewriter.
His name is Kevin Devaney, and he had samples of his poetry readily available for review. Each sample booklet was bound, cleverly, by slender hairpins. Beside his poetry table sat an old leather briefcase and a small carrying box of supplies. It was like bumping into a modern Henry David Thoreau.
Curiosity got the best of me, so I asked, "What's the deal, here?" He smiled and said, "I write individual poems for people. Tell me what you'd like me to write about, give me about ten minutes, and I'll craft you a poem," he answered.
I glanced at some of the poems in his complimentary booklets. They were good. He asked me who my favorite poets were. "Frost. Yeats. Browning," I told him. He smiled and said, "What do you want your poem to be about?" I told him that I have an art website. That I'd love a poem of advice for artists in 2016. He said, "Sure, there's two ahead of you, so come back in about twenty minutes and I'll have your poem."
Build a stair upon which man may climb out
I went shopping for a bit and came back to see what Mr. Devaney had crafted. The poem was typed on a thin, onion skinned paper of approximately 3 x 4". In this day and age of email, there was something so old school and quaint about this small, typed piece of paper. He entitled the poem, "Advice for Artists in 2016- for John P. Weiss." Here is what he wrote:
Advice for Artists in 2016
I am hammering this collection of
keys until my fingertips bloom in sores of
purple and red:
these, the roses I receive
for the work,
break the spectrum of human experience
of the universal through the prism of self
and do it in pigment,
stretch the paint
until you have built a stair on which
man may climb out
of his lack of kindness;
it travels on the breeze like a ribbon
in search of a home
and your work
is to give it one
or it will find another more suited servant.
-Kevin Devaney 12 19 15
One of the items I bought while waiting for Devaney's poem was Oliver Sacks' last book, "Gratitude." Oliver Sacks was a British neurologist, naturalist and author. As Wikipedia states: "He felt that the brain was the 'most incredible thing in the universe' and therefore important to study." Dr. Sacks passed away in August 2015, but not before writing his slender book "Gratitude."
In the closing chapter of the book, Dr. Sacks wrote: "And now, weak, short of breath, my once firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the super-natural or spiritual but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life-achieving a sense of peace within oneself."
As we stroll together into a new year, I invite you to heed the words of poet Kevin Devaney and "build a stair upon which man may climb out." Through your art, you can share beauty and comfort for the weary among us. You can inspire others and lead them up that stairway to a better life. And while you go about your work, listen for the echoes of Dr. Sacks' wisdom. Have gratitude for your life. For your art. And for the chance to touch others through your creative gifts. Here's to the endless possibilities and joys of a new year.