Why do I want to sleep? Is it the dreaming?

Aren’t dreams as real as life’s dreamlike seeming

And dreams more pleasant, and more uniquely mine?

Who wouldn’t rather sleep than listen to assholes all the time?

But sleep is not desire and I miss desire, too.

You are not a dream, are you?

That hankering in the blood under the sun

For what is real, the dream and the real all one,

I very much want that, too.

I will never forget when you said yes

And allowed me to nightly press

My hardness against your softness,

My brute and blind and stupid prick

Against you, wise and politic.

Did that joy only seem

To be real, like a dream?

Yes, yes, I have to say yes;

It was a dream, because it’s gone now, and you were not the one,

And do we confess

Desire like that beneath the real sun?


We hate the heartbreak and pain and ugliness of actual madness. Are we hypocrites to celebrate it in art?

Scarriet is a “Poetry & Culture” site, but we are highly indebted to art and painting, the glory of depiction and soul. Poetry ain’t got no soul; we know that: writing in complete sentences belongs to the reason and the intellect, and part of the falling off of poetry since Modernism has been that the poets have stopped writing in complete sentences, in the attempt to be like hip painters. But writing will never be hip painting, and when writing attempts this it ends up being a crappy, pretentious, ungrammatical horror show. Okay for texting, but not for literature.

But today we want to lecture the painters and tell them how stupid they have been.

Painting, unlike poetry, and like certain kinds of music and dance, does have soul. Precisely because it can say what it needs to say immediately and without any blah blah blah.

But just as education is ruining literature and just about everything else—including education—as well as destroying the life of a great nation with 1.1 trillion dollars of school debt, education is also destroying the painters.

Painters now feel compelled to support their “artistic mission” with writing, with words, with explanations, those teachable explanations good for the education biz, but destructive of art and soul.

You know what we are talking about: the ubiquitous “artist statements” which accompany every work of art: “My art reflects society’s oppression of women/blacks/gays/the environment.” Or my art “celebrates” blacks/gays/the environment. Or “my art explores ordinary objects/ animals/clothing/sports/erotica/poverty/fashion/families and what they mean in our contemporary society,” etc etc.  (There is nothing wrong with these topics, per se.  We question only the crippling effects of the pedantry.)

We look from the apology for the art to the art itself—and, honestly, we see nothing but weak apology and weak art.

Inevitably, what this whole poisonous attitude has done, an attitude which is tailor-made for the sociological babbling of earnest truisms in schools and colleges and institutes and academies, is force art into a pedantic hell of feeble and abstracted ‘topic & thing-ism’ (sometimes flattered with the misnomers ‘Expressionism’ and ‘Impressionism’).

The art work no longer stands on its own in a purposeful and beautiful manner.

The artistic term Impressionism has nothing to do with “we are impressed!” Or “to make a memorable impression.” It means “fleeting impression.” Or, in other words, we painters have given up. All we are good for is the trivial and the fleeting. That teenager in the 1400s? Durer? We can’t do as well as he can.

Art history must share a great deal of the blame, too; and nowhere else but in art history do we see words whored out to ‘explain’ why the ugly and the unexceptional and the unskilled is worthy.

Even good explanations should not be trusted, for as soon as words begin to convince us of the worth of painting, we should close our ears for our own protection. Painting should never need words. Isn’t that the whole point, after all?

So when we read that Van Gogh’s distorted interiors are distortions of a mind illuminating the inherent complexity of reality, a reality which challenges the artist to see beyond dualities of ‘chaos and order’ and ‘ugliness and beauty’ and make art that is both of that reality and inside it, such that this ‘inside’ is the artist’s whole being, imaginatively and empathetically co-creating the viewer’s ‘outside’ experience, making the viewer an artist, too, we should laugh and scorn these words, for no painting needs it— and as much as it does, the painting fails.

It is heretical to challenge the primacy of Van Gogh, obviously, whose underdog status and value—more monetarily secure than a dollar bill—makes him absolutely untouchable; but perhaps more than with any other artist, here we learned what Expressionism really means: the artist is crazy— and therefore judge the art through the lens of psychology and not art— and here the ugly entered the tent where once only beauty was allowed. ‘Crazy’ eclipsed beauty, and every danger imaginable has followed from that.

We hate what is actually and nastily crazy but we hypocritically adore it in painting.

A great artist with effort and sensitivity can portray crazy. Van Gogh didn’t portray crazy. He was crazy. And there’s the chasmatic difference.

The art historian’s words elevated the ‘bad painting’ of Van Gogh to a status which has nothing to do with Van Gogh, per se, and everything to do with the door it opened.

Words, not painting, opened the Crazy door, and only great painting can close that door again.

Painters, stop trusting words—now.

Art schools: stop teaching art history. Art history, especially modern art history, is poison. Eliminate it and forget it. Teach the craft of painting, the skills of drawing; teach the techniques of art—and leave “artist statements” to the wind which blows the dead leaves around your academy.

The poor painters today now have to compete not only with Nature (who always paints better and has always been the painter’s greatest rival) and other painters, but also the blah blah blah of the art historian and art critic. The rise of abstract painting, if the secret reason for that fashion might now be told, was not to escape “representative painting,” but to escape words: for the “perfection” of the purely abstract is that it is free of blah blah blah. The viewer just has to look. But Abstract Painting was a dead-end and a false escape, for those who love painting will never shut up about it. Words will always feed like ravens upon the corpse.

Painters will just have to suck it up and transcend fleeting impressions and crazy expressions and make art that is actually good: see Albrecht Durer’s teenage work.

Paint crazy.

Being crazy will no longer cut it.

Nor will: “Before you can appreciate my painting, I must inform you blah blah blah…”


Van Gogh (d. 1890) Japanese influence due to U.S. Navy’s trip to Japan in mid-19th century, thanks to Poe’s friend, Joseph P. Kennedy, sec. navy.

Tom, I dare not say.
Little review, I’m afraid you’ll go away.
A light rain might interfere with the sun
In terms that might upset you, or anyone,
Gliding past an ordinary World War One day.

I’m afraid you’ll go away.
The rain dissolves near the mist-resembling sun.
Clouds were bright last night, and I see every magazine is done.
Is it possible to be published? Will I be kissed?
Is it wise to duck the sun?

Haiku was all the rage in 1904
Due to the Japanese victory in the Russo-Japan war.
Imagism and “objective correlative”
Would soon follow.
Ezra Pound insisted, but Tom’s father wouldn’t swallow.

Perhaps aeroplane and typewriter
Made poems go
where they didn’t want to go.
Futurism was a gas—funny and slow.
Is light in the eyes of the crowd the light of night or day?
Are we closer to each other now?   Stein’s secretary,

Tom, I dare not say
Why there’s no ideas but in things,
For things work better in painting,
Not in poetry, where things do not stay;
Do you remember the stars?  The wide bay…


All these poets seem indifferent and cold,
Boring!  Black and white!
They put their love in monuments
Of stone, frozen, it seems, long ago
By outer space without limit; they strive
To put words together, like spark and dark.
If perfection is darkness, they go that way.
For them, nothing has to be alive.
They spurn the hot-blooded day;
Day will melt their monuments.
They take whatever their readers know
And present it as if it were their wisdom,
Whispering and dropping slowly
Into deception and valley,
A perception of soft, sweet glow,
Passion intellectualized!

I brought flowers once to Karla Karrar,
A girl I barely knew, invaded her
Backyard after wandering the hills
For flowers that were almost weeds;
Among weeds, I found strange flowers.
Those were thoughtless thrills;
I was young and could discount them;
I was no poet, then.
Ah, that is one anxious memory.
Now I hope you’ll be able to tolerate me;
I am the book jackets you see, the blurbs and the vanity,

I am the poet now.
I am going to give you love and I am going to give you flowers.
Will you watch as they are depicted as that
For you, right here, in verse, for the next two and three quarter hours?

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