Monday, June 30, 2008


In Deborah Solomon’s interview with Peter Schjeldahl, the New Yorker art critic, in the June issue of the Artforum, it’s nice to read how a person can love words, their sound, their rhythm, their imagery.

DS: I’ve always admired the range of your language. In your criticism, you use a lot of slang – goofy, dude, oomph, shuddery, ingratiation-free, artistic outlawry – in combination with fancy vocabulary words, such as basilisk or raddled or epicene.

PS: Criticism joins poetry, for me, in having a civic duty to limber up the common word stock, keeping good words in play. My sidekick is the Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary.

Limber up. Keeping words in play. Nice.

It reminds me that we speak and write in metaphor all the time. We can chose our words like a creative act, but mostly we use these images and parallels unknowingly. Food for thought (for example).

And from the same interview. This cuts like a knife.

DS: Do you feel any paternal obligation toward artists, any pressure to be an advocate for their work?

PS: No. None.

DS: Do you feel moved by the basic nobility of artists, the desire to be alone in a room, trying to add meaningful objects to the world?

PS: There is tremendous poignancy in that, but you know something? It’s a great privilege to be an artist. You get to discover the outer limits of your talent and freedom. You get to see the world from a high place. If you flop and end up with a square job in Dubuque, you will already have a wealth of knowledge and experience that 99.9 percent of humanity can only dream of. Do not whine.

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