take out the “sh”
and it’s cool
The great Gwendolyn Brooks, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in the early 1950’s and Poet Laureate of Illinois for many years, asked in her Dedication to Picasso, “Does man love art?” Her answer: “Man visits art but cringes. Art hurts. Art urges voyages.”
Exactly. Art, which often begins in pain and horror, when it’s good ends in the imaginable; art embraces the entire territory of possibility. Art stands next to the world as such, the given or the received world, waving a colorful flag gesturing toward a world that should be, or a world that could be but is not yet. So if we believe that the world is perfect and in need of no improvement, or that the world is none of our business, or that we are at the end of history and that this is as good as it gets and that no repair is possible, then we must banish the arts, cuff and gag the artists—remember, they urge voyages. If, on the other hand, we see ourselves as works-in-progress, catapulting through a vibrant history-in-the-making, and if we feel a responsibility to engage and participate, then the arts are our strongest ally. It depends.
Perhaps that’s what Ferlinghetti was thinking when he published a slim volume with the provocative title Poetry as Insurgent Art, or what Picasso had in mind when he said, “Art is not chaste. Those ill-prepared should be allowed no contact with art. Art is dangerous. If it is chaste it is not art.” Add to that Einstein’s famous observation that “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” Wow! The poet meets the most famous painter and the most renowned scientist of the century, and think about it: they are on the move and on the make, propulsive, dynamic, unsettled and alive—of course.
Haki Madhubuti, Gwendolyn Brooks’ publisher as well as her artistic son, claims that art is a “prodigious and primary energy source,” and then turns to the connection of art to education: “Children’s active participation …is what makes them whole, significantly human, secure in their own skin…” His poem then becomes a chant, each line ending with the words “with art” or “through art.” Every teacher or student, parent or community member can play along and add on:
Magnify your children’s mind with art,
jumpstart their questions…
keep their young minds running, jumping and excited…
Keep them off drugs, respecting themselves and others, away from war…with art!