Have you ever wondered if art, whether it is in the form of writing, or painting, has been taken over by narcissism?
Over lunch, yesterday, the conversation turned from why would I want to read a book on cat psychology if I don’t have a cat to the tragic life of Edgar Allan Poe, how great his poems are, and of course how amazing is “The Raven.” Then my thoughts turned darker, as the always do when discussing poetry, and I remembered all the terrible poetry books that have passed between my hands when I used to work at a major book distributor.
Having done my homework in which is the best way to publish in Lebanon, I know unlike other places in the world, self-publishing is the best way to go. Having said that, you can probably infer that without a buffer, not all self-published are going to be great works or even OK works*. Still, on my part, I would have respect for the author of mediocre books for the mere effort he/she has put in. I know first hand writing a book is no stroll in the park.**
But then there are some self-published books that need to be stopped and their authors, the I’m-so-smug-I-don’t-realize-my-thought-diary-does-not-need-to-be-read-by-anyone-ever, be banned from ever holding a pen or typing on a keyboard.
The work of choice of the I’m-so-smug-I-don’t-realize-my-thought-diary-does-not-need-to-be-read-by-anyone-ever is usually a poetry book or a sort of thought diary, devoid of any real poetry and depth, or anything that could be mistaken for poetry and depth.
I am not talking about some saccharine poems written by a preteen. No, it’s worse, I am talking about adults mistaking narcissism for art. One particular poetry book comes to mind by a probably otherwise the lovely lady who wrote one-liner poems made up of 2-3 words each and self published.
No, it’s not transcendent for a poem to be made up of one line saying “my hair” or “the night.” If you expect me to read that and search for depth and meaning, then I have become the poet, not you. In fact, it’s infuriating to me because I find it condescending that you expect anyone buying this book to mistake it for poetry.
The best case scenario I am willing to entertain is the night you were prompted to write this, you were sleepy and you were holding a paper and a pen. Suddenly the words “the night” held lots of meaning to you, and you wrote it down. I honestly respect that.
What went wrong, is that in the morning you probably told yourself while looking in the mirror, “You are brilliant Lamia (not real name), you should share your brilliance with the world; they will worship you for it.”
Let’s be honest and realistic, this is not deep, it is not poetry and it is definitely not art. You did not work on that. You have put zero effort on your part, but expect me to search for the depth you are at best implying.
Smug Thought-Diaries are similar. There is no effort to move the reader. Worst thing is, these people think they are unique, they don’t realize most people have several thoughts per day that could be worked into poetry. You are not offering anything new.
As for art in the forms of illustration, painting or drawing it is worse in the way that on the internet you get to see so much talent by struggling artists, whereas one trip to an art exhibit and you will be looking for hidden cameras and some punk to jump in and say the whole art exhibit was a joke. Because there is no way an empty canvas with two parallel black lines could cost thousands of dollars because it is art. It is not art, you insult me and the rest of the people who got into the trouble of coming to the exhibit.
Poetry, these sort of thought diaries, or art in general is supposed to move us, inspire us, break us, challenge us or at least entertain us. No matter the style of a painting, if it holds my attention for even a second, it has touched me and this is phenomenal. It is what art is made for. Even if I don’t like it, whoever made it is an artist.
When it is apparent that zero effort was put in, I can’t help, but feel offended and sad; very sad not only at the condensation, but also at wasting any resources for making any of that crap happen. Let’s be honest, as much as I love art, it is not something essential survival of humankind; there’s no need to be wasteful.
* I know the same can be said of some traditionally published works
**in Lebanon actually a stroll in the park is putting an effort, as we have very few of them and they are tiny