a wash

By Lena Slanisky

Published: 2020-04-19

or self-portrait as amateur poet, amateur catherinette

the sky looks the same
as the last time i fell in love
the last time this city was mine
as i turn, it burns
awash in brake lights

look to the window
same view
framed, feeble
structured inspiration

insomnia, sleepwalking
i don’t go anywhere
playing chess matches against myself
not even striking up smoke

only words i’ve
forgotten how to spell
animus arrested
silent, lock-jaw screams

then one
my nails start
to catch
on my clothes

so i’ve taught myself
to be understanding
when my stuff
goes places without me

ricochet between
suffocation of self
and the unassailable bloom
within solitude

little rebellion, small success
to let the pot boil over —
i just had to stop
and write it down

1. What does the word “artist” mean to you and is that how you identify? Did it take you time to adopt that identity?

For me, the word artist defines someone who has honed a particular craft or skill out of love, passion, curiosity, and determination. I think sometimes, creative people are left feeling as if they cannot adopt that title, cannot call themselves artists because their practiced skill is not also their primary source of income. We get hung up on being a “professional.” I think I saw this struggle ahead of me, from my desk in university. I knew, as a poet and fiction writer, I was likely going to have to find another way to “make ends meet.” But I was a writer. I knew this in my soul. So, as soon as I was out of school, whenever I was faced with a form that asked me my profession, I would proudly scrawl: WRITER. It’s right there on my degree, Bachelor of English & Creative Writing. Sure, I may have been serving drinks at the time… but at the end of the day, I was a writer. An artist.

So, no. I don’t think it took me time to adopt the identity of an artist. My bigger challenge has been maintaining that self-identification, even when I feel out of touch with my creative practices.

2. What does the word “technology” mean to you?

Technology, for me, is something digital that is meant to make our lives easier in some way. (Whether or not that actually occurs is another question entirely.)

3. What role does technology play in your art?

As I imagine many creatives feel, sometimes technology makes my art possible, and sometimes I find myself running in the other direction.

As a writer who started writing before laptops existed, in a time when our PC still had dial-up, my first tool was pen and paper. I have held onto this first phase of creation, and still carry a small notebook around with me everywhere I go for stray thoughts that feel worthy of ink.

When it’s time to pull things out of a notebook, the computer is usually the next step. Through technology, I can take a series of scribbled lines and craft a poem, seeing it on a screen the way it would be viewed post-publication. This helps tremendously with editing and formatting, both things I factor into writing poetry.

On the flip side, your regular word processors (Google Docs, Microsoft Word, etc.) are a nightmare for me when I’m in a creative phase of fiction writing. I don’t want to be told I’ve made a typo, I don’t want to be distracted by headings or margins. I want a blank canvas where I can pour out my brain juices.

While there are technological answers to this problem (OmWriter comes to mind), I inevitably opted for the analogue solution.

Now, I do a lot of first-draft writing on a typewriter. Does it count as technology if you’re moving backwards?

4. What role do you see art having on present global culture?

In a world where we so often misunderstand, miscommunicate, or miss each other entirely, I believe art exists to unite us.

5. In your opinion, can you separate art as distinct from artist? From the environment in which it was created? From its societal era? Why or why not?

I think that when an artist creates something, it is a manifestation of how they view the world.

When someone views that art, they are given the opportunity to see the world through the artist’s point of view. They are also given the opportunity to completely misunderstand the artist, and through this art, see the world in an entirely different way.

So, yes. I do think that you can discuss a piece of art, think about art, or feel a certain way about a piece of art as distinct from where it was created or who created it.


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