One of the greater joys of my endeavors as an author and poet has been an occasional opportunity to compose poems, essays, and articles to supplement the vibrant works of visual artists with my own literary constructions.
That was the case in 2011 when providing panel text for paintings featured in the extremely gifted artist Michele Wood’s I See the Rhythm of Gospel exhibition. Previously, I had been blessed with a similar honor when composing ekphrastic poems for the art of Luther E. Vann in ELEMENTAL The Power of Illuminated Love. And I’ve written any number of essays reviewing the works or chronicling the lives of other contemporary artists such as Allen Fireall (who currently, heartbreakingly, is challenged by the need for a heart transplant), Jerome Meadows, Phil Starks, and Amiri Geuka Farris.
The year 2012 saw this scenario change in some unexpected ways. In recent months, various readers and inspired techno angels have shared with me a variation on the creative process of me producing words to complement the visual brilliance of fellow creators. Demonstrating Zinta Aistar’s observation (in her review of ELEMENTAL) that “art begets art,” they have employed quotations from my works to lend verbal articulation to specific images–– and vice versa. Their application of these quotes seemed a natural development following the increased popularity of social media sites like Pinterest, Twitter, and Tumblr.
It was an astonishing thing––at first––to experience. The reason was not because I had been unaware these inventive mergers were in progress (although in fact I did not know at the time). It was because the end results so often successfully expanded the original conceptions without excluding the original intent. Others provided fresh interpretations that generated new insights into my own work. How often does that happen for a dedicated pen-pusher who refuses to give up his inkwell and yellow legal pads no matter how awesome the latest generation of notebook tablets may be?
I have often stated that my own involvement in contemporary literature is my way of contributing to the luminous conversation sustained by readers and writers as we journey from one century to another. This new way of art begetting art (new for me at least) is both an expansion of and commentary on that conversation. One of its greatest gifts has been to inspire works like the illuminated phrase posted with this article, and taken from the poem “Holiday Letter for a Poet Gone to War,” published in Visions of a Skylark Dressed in Black:
“You were born a child of light’s wonderful secret--
you return to the beauty you have always been.”
As it happens, the image used with this quote represents yet one more way that art has given birth to art because it is my understanding that it is taken from a forthcoming video.
So long as quotations or excerpts are not used for commercial purposes without authorization, I am more than happy to share them and actually feel they help me fulfill my work as an author. For that I am very grateful. After all, if one of the creative artist’s most important jobs is to address––through his or her specific medium–– the more pressing issues of the times, then surely a major part of any serious author’s role is to help compose a suitable vocabulary that accomplishes exactly that. Moreover, it should probably be one that further empowers fellow citizens of the Global Village to achieve such a goal in a way that proposes to heal lives instead of proposing to destroy them. That, more than anything else, may very well provide the greatest affirmation of art’s ever-commanding timeless value.
author of The River of Winged Dreams
co-author of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance
Contemporary award-winning American author of classically-styled works in history, poetry, creative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and journalism.