It’s fitting that it’s pouring with rain here at my 2013 VCCA residency as I take down the 40 (!) sonnets that comprise Sisters & Courtesans from my cork pin board. I feel a bit flat, like you do after you’ve stood in line for a rollercoaster for two hours, and as the two minute ride is pulling back into the loading bay, you ask yourself if it was worth it.
Does the world really need a series of sonnets in the voices of non-famous historical women? Does the series, taken as a whole, really explore the evolution of the intersection between spirituality and sexuality, as I rather pompously put it in the cover letter to a submission I sent out yesterday? Do I care?
Which, of course, leads us to the burning question we discussed on one of my earlier evenings here: who is art for? The suggestion from one of my fellow artists was that art is for those who can appreciate it. I disagreed with that, because I think it represents an elitist ivory tower perspective and is the reason that so much contemporary poetry is up its own ass. I contended that art should be for the people. But perhaps I was wrong.
Maybe art is primarily for the artist? When I decided that “My Life as a Norse Spae-Wife” should attempt to suggest the alliterative qualities of Anglo-Saxon verse as well as being a strict sonnet, I took that decision for my own personal satisfaction. When I spent an entire morning studying African American Vernacular English to write “My Life in the Jim Crow South” it was so I could take pride in the result. When I chose “My Life as a Tibetan Yogini” as the final poem (The series is chronological, but there are a couple of poems that could have taken place over a broad time period) that was because I wanted the book to end on an uplifting note, not because I thought it might be more likely to get published that way.
So if *I* feel that I have developed a better overview of women’s sexuality and spirituality as a result of these two weeks, perhaps that’s all that matters, or, to put it in the words of the zen koan I quote in “Tibetan Yogini” which thereby forms the last line of the manuscript:
“The hand that points at the moon is not the moon.”