A Youth Addresses the Council

[A child of indeterminate sex–either a delicate-featured boy or a tomboy-ish girl–, 9 or 10 years old, enters the chamber where the United States Council of Artists is meeting.]

“Is this the United States Council of Artists?”

[The Chairman of the Council responds:] “Yes. Who are you?”

“That doesn’t matter. Are all the high arts present? Poetry, Music, the Visual Arts?”

“Yes. . . . There are people from all the various arts here. . . .”

“The Hour of your Doom is upon you.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve failed to create with feeling.
Nuclear angst no longer excuses you.
Moral uncertainty, the dissolution of society,
no longer excuses you.
The ‘Death of God’ no longer excuses you.
Human beings have not changed.
We are not the hollow men.
Great art
comes from the heart;
your superfluities will now depart.

“Painter! Isn’t it true that the same day you started work on this [holding up a reproduction of the painting “Incongruities: White Lines, Pink Lines”] you visited a hardware store with a middle-aged clerk whose face was wonderfully sad and quizzical? That as you walked home the pattern of the sun shining through the trees onto the sidewalk was marvelously variegated?

“Composer! Tell me honestly [playing a cassette recording of “Duet in F-Minor for Flute and Woodblock”] that these rhythmless sounds move you. . . . It’s made with the head, completely with the head.

“Poet! Isn’t it true that you’ve never written any poems expressing your deepest feelings: your love of your older sister; the painful growing-apart of you and your wife leading up to your divorce; your hatred of the stuffy academics who denied you tenure; the passion you felt for that Australian girl on Corfu last summer. . . . Instead you’ve written these [holding up a book entitled Root Crops, No Metaphors and reading from it:]

translucent, magenta-veined root-tips
push, cell by cell, into humid grit;
dark green, dark-red-veined crowns
expand profligately sunward. . . .

“Great art
speaks to the heart;
your superfluities will now depart.”

[Another Council member:] “Mr. Chairman, with all due respect to this –surprisingly eloquent– young person, I suggest that we return to the business at hand which is” [consulting his agenda] “the allocation this fiscal year for haiku in South Dakota.”

Hear Jerry/Lucius read this poem.    This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems.

Keywords:  art, arts, poetry, music, painting, government, bureaucracy, feeling, abstract art