Researching American literary journals yesterday – to see if I can find a willing home somewhere for a couple of short stories I’m in the middle of writing – I came across Glass: A Journal of Poetry. And this, the publication’s rousing call to arms:
“We want to see poetry that enacts the artistic and creative purity of glass.”
In the midst of so many ‘submission requirements,’ and ‘lead times,’ and ‘honorariums paid when funding available’ (better, it seems, to pay writers nothing than to sully them with something grubby like a fee), it grabbed my attention with unexpected forcefulness. So much so that I read it again. The artistic and creative purity of glass.
Forgive me. I know it’s a whole lot nicer to look up than down. And I’m also pretty sure that ‘a journal of poetry’ would be hard-pressed to issue from an unlovely place full of people hammering away at keyboards for the ‘wrong reasons.’ But, seriously… what sort of catastrophic thinking would ever lead someone – anyone – to put down on paper ‘the artistic and creative purity of glass’? Without doing it for, you know, a joke.
Don’t say it’s just me. The artistic and creative purity of glass. That’s the worst, wettest, dippiest kind of bullshit imaginable, isn’t it? I mean, really. Surely even a pretentious 16 year-old would think twice before writing that – even if the one in question was wearing a beret, sporting the first fuzzy wisps of a pointy beard, and otherwise busy telling anyone who can’t help but listen about Sartre, and Nietzsche, and Camus, and why Picasso never found his muse again after Guernica don’t you know.
In any event, reading that sorry sentence reminded me of Philadelphia’s National Liberty Museum, where I interviewed for a fundraising job a few years ago. It is (as they quickly told me) America’s preeminent home for ‘internationally renowned’ glass sculpture. ‘Nothing better symbolizes liberty’ said their website, ‘than glass sculpture’ – because glass sculpture is, at the same time!, ‘both beautiful and fragile’ (italics mine, I must admit). It was a reoccurring theme during my interview, and every now and then I found myself duty-bound to nod.
Here’s what I’m wondering, though. If glass is so jolly special, how come there’s so much of it in shopping malls? Could it possibly be, after all, that it also symbolizes the ease with which you can remove yourself from your money these days, in the course of buying lots of stuff you don’t really need? Says the floor-to-ceiling glass in front of yet another Apple Store, ‘look, see, we’re open… and we’ve got nothing to hide because we’re sophisticated and clever.’
And how is it that so many law firms, and dental surgeries, and multinational banks can be relied upon, with grim predictability, to ‘greet’ you from behind a glass reception counter? Are they, perhaps, also celebrating in their own little way the ‘beauty’ and ‘fragility’ of glass? Are they too pondering its ‘artistic and creative purity?’ Sure, nothing brings out the poet in me more than a blood-red ‘Bank of America’ on a thick chunk of see-through…
But what, again, of our periodical friend Poetry, eh? Is it possible that I’m just being mean here for the silly sake of it? For shame! There they are seeking out ‘creative purity,’ wherever they can find it (on tiptoes too, most likely, lest it shatter), and here I am like a bull in a china shop. Breaking that purity on the cruel hoofs of needless cynicism… as if I’ve never stumbled into any figurative/metaphorical/lyrical cul-de-sacs of my own! (Note to self: people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Because the STONES might break the GLASS.)
Yep, I’ve dirtied Poetry’s windows quite enough, I think. Much more of that and there won’t be any ‘art’ left to shine through, will there? Or, well, you know, they won’t be able to see it or something.
Poor things, I guess they never draw their curtains either.