Quietly, quietly, the art works and the poems and the stories keep being made in small towns and big towns and middle-sized ones, storms of beauty like butterflies migrating past one's hoary head. You'd think that by now every wall in every house in the world would be covered by works of art and that there would be a stack of poems by every chair, being read dawn to dusk, loudly or to oneself, by lovers of words. But no, most walls are bare, sporting at best religious icons and at worst mass-produced pictures from yard sales and Wal-Marts, and the people read the crawlers at the bottom of TV news and the thin newspapers with even thinner words and zero matter for reflection. People complain of excessive mediatization, of too much TV, too-loud advertising, too many sensationalistic news stories, but I don't believe it. I think that a great big silence surrounds and suffuses us and that all the noise the world makes barely penetrates it, and that most people's inner lives are muted craters gurgling forth only the loopy monotony of one's own voice discussing misconnections and mortality in nonstop prose. And yet, over there, by the trees in the Vermont hills, lovely magical theater is being made for decades by the Bread & Puppet Theatre, and there by the Russian River, living for years in a house beneath the redwoods, poet Pan Nolan projects in lovely lines the issues of a consciousness intensely immersed in nature and irony, and a little up the ocean, in Prague, Vincent Farnsworth makes the cacophony of the band-rehearsal next door into a manual for gracefully ageing, and just around the corner in Baton Rouge, Colleen Fava, burning sacrificially for art is reading Robert Musil in his wooly and unfinished entirety for the purpose of feeding her mind and pleasing her capricious teacher, and no further than the city of New York, now groping its way through a depressing economy, Simon Pettet makes lyrics worthy of the trovadors, and in some other woods, Rodger Kamenetz spins dreams to draw out the cosmos. When you look for it and listen for it, art surges everywhere, spilling its cornucopia of spirit from and into every place humans inhabit. So why is it that all most people hear is their own lonely sorrow drowned in TV noise and all they see is their insignificance barely kept at bay by shopping? The answer is that there are two devils: the Devil of Conformity who keeps us from seeing and hearing what artists make and thus condemns us to sterile solitude and the Devil of Art and Joy who is fighting the Devil of Conformity as we speak. Today, in the deep laziness and profound tedium of summer, go out and buy an art work and a book of poetry and keep it talismanically around or take it with you into the waves. You must quit boring yourself.
Andrei Codrescu's just-published book, it was today: new poems, from Coffee House Press (www.coffeehousepress.org), is one of those objects.