Please, don’t speak when I’m making art or thinking about palettes with no greens, pigment granulation or studio space. I won’t hear you. I’ll deflect your conversation. Don’t wait for me, I have no words.
After having been away from art for years, I’m back to it. And I’m finding that it unmoors me from directionality, taking me into myriad-threaded deltas of possibilities, from which a wildness spills over, even into talking or writing.
Bits and pieces of ancient root words, casual talk, slang and language syntaxes float up, seemingly meant to be played with and mixed, like colors. And I play, willingly, with little regard for the structures that make language understandable.
When I wasn’t doing art, I learned to write, and speak, with strength and sometimes-grace. Such skills, the result of hard work, were mine to keep, I thought. But no — now I find they were only of that time.
My relationship with words has broken. It’s become a gritty confrontation, in which I fight to shift thoughts into meaningful sequences. My native way of communicating, apparently, is with my hands. Art feels fluent to me, words don’t. I’m communicating in my primary language again, and I’ve lost my way with words.
Yet I don’t want to lose my way there. I owe such a debt to word-work, especially editing, which taught me dispassion, care, economy and gave me multi-leveled vision, lessons I’ve carried over into art, where I sorely needed such capabilities.
As a result, I can now see what I’m doing, understand layers of composition and meaning, and see unity or what’s preventing it, much sooner than I used to be able to. Moreover, working with words wore down a fear I had, of my own creative nature and its capacity for making chaos.
I never would have come back to art if I hadn’t worked with words. I need writing’s structures, and how it teaches a writer to think and see, and its non-judgmental nature.
Oh blessed Words, thanks for what you’ve brought me. I have Hisham Matar‘s Reflections piece “Two Revolutions“, in The New Yorker, for fresh top-notch short prose. I have some Philip Levine and others’ work, for poetry. I’m editing old writing again. Let me not turn away from you, though things are a little tough between us now.