When I moved to Fort Lauderdale, I would get restless at night. I wanted to be out prowling beaches walking by noisy bars, not a part of the scene, but privy to it. I left poems and objects, chalked writings along sidewalks. In 2011, a friend linked my post about hanging the micropoems in the Himmarshee district, and the feedback he got from his friends was pretty negative. Well, one comment was. It’s lost under the avalanche of new content, but the remark left this impression, this distillation in my mind, whether or not that was the actual gist of the comment: that people thought I was only doing things like that “for attention,” and that art shouldn’t be done “for attention.” That people thought I was trying to be “edgy” and “original.”
Now I’m in Tallahassee, having lived through one of the hardest years of my life in terms of depression and the loss of family and friends. It’s been hard to “stay positive,” whatever that means. It’s been hard to enjoy things the way I used to. One of the things I’d lost is my poetry. I had not written a poem in over a year, outside a smattering of micropoems. Even my blog here tapered off. I stopped dancing. And gradually I found it more and more onerous to work on my weird little art projects or to write fiction. Even practical projects began to drag.
My spouse-creature is away on business. Here in this town, I am a recluse. I don’t talk to many people. I sleep through much of my day. The thought of existing in this huge empty house alone for two weeks is terrifying. Not in the sense of fear for my safety, but in the sense of I have no one to talk to. It was strange, then, to wake up needing paper last night. Strange to see the words trailing out of the meeting between graphite and paper. It was even stranger that I was revisiting an old notion, Pandora in poem, wanting to sneak past the gates in parks and leave these texts scrawled on odd objects for other people. Because people don’t do this unless they want attention.
I was about to censor myself, crumple up the page and make myself go back to bed. That’s when I started crying. I watched the tears plop onto the notebook paper, and thought about the texture of a wet page that’s dried, how it rumples, and if I could use that, make the ink of a poem run like eyeliner…
I finished the poem. And I started prepping the surface of a box that will wear it. I intend to leave it behind somewhere. This morning, after waking up for a second time, I actually started reading The Art Abandonment Project by Micheal and Andrea Matus deMeng. I’d marked on Goodreads I’d already started it, but I have this habit of not picking a book up until I’ve told someone I have already… it’s like a butler lie for my bookshelf. I expected it to be… pretentious. Michael deMeng talks about his motives in abandoning his art in various places, even writes about posting his experience of it on his Facebook page. He talks of the exhilaration of not knowing what became of it, seeking to relive the feeling of his art abandonments in Oaxaca, or during his college days. There was an angry part of me who thought, “Who would leave art somewhere and write about it unless they wanted the attention? To self-aggrandize?”
But as I read I realized something. Any creation of art is about attention. Not so much the attention of “look at me, look at how great this is,” but the attention of a conversation. The attention of sharing something. With art and writing treated as commodities, people look at these objects in terms of money, utility. Art is instead a kind of ritual magic, a way of stringing sentences together with objects or paint or juxtaposition. There is something human about the kind of connection that it brings. It stirs the imagination. It makes us feel as though we’re part of a larger community when much of our every day experience is geared toward separating and isolating us. At the same time, it acknowledges how large that community really is: one is surrendering something they worked on to strangers in a place large enough that there are a significant number of such strangers.
We’re human. We do everything for attention. For interaction. For moments of connection. We are social creatures. When I posted in 2011 about hanging the poems from a tree on Himmarshee Street, I wanted to delight someone. I wanted to claim ownership of the act to a group of people likely different from the people who would find it. I wanted maybe to dare someone else to take the idea and bend it differently, to do something else with it. I didn’t think I was being “original.” There’s no such thing, and it was such a simple act, I was certain someone else had done it before, even if I hadn’t myself encountered it. But most of all, in doing it I delighted myself, and relived that delight in documenting it. It was fun.
Now, more than ever, these are the kinds of connections that make me feel like a human being. So I will grab the junk I come across. I will scribble poems on them. I will juxtapose word and object, and leave it for someone to find. Because I enjoy it. Because someone else might enjoy it. Because it’s a love letter to art. And I’ve written precious few of those lately.