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April 18th, 2017 - 04:32 PM
EDITORIAL NOTE: This is a continuation of the previous blog discussing changes in the publishing industry in regard to books of art and poetry. Publication of the ekphrastic art and poetry collection ELEMENTAL, the Power of Illuminated Love, proved an exception to the rule made possible by an invested community. Next month, May 29, 2017, will mark the ninth anniversary of the publication of the celebrated work by artist Luther E. Vann and myself:
Living Art, Living Poetry (continued)
Until the advent of the modern self-publishing and “author services” industry, getting any book published by an author who had yet to establish him- or herself as a viable commodity within the literary marketplace was much like running, at first one decade-long marathon to build up enough courage to call oneself an author, and then a second to convince a bona fide publishing house that you were not delusional by making such a claim.
This meant books of poetry published outside the academic arena were considered foolishly frivolous investments, and books of art extravagant pleasures afforded the few but not the many. Yet at how many graduation ceremonies, political functions, funerals, weddings, conventions, and other life-defining events are the words of poets evoked to clarify the spirit and substance of the occasion at hand? On how many rainy days and in how many hours of stifled desperation has an individual made her way into a museum or gallery and took healing refuge in an image that bore witness to their heart’s challenging journey?
There is much that could be said about ELEMENTAL as an extraordinary gift of manifested vision in the lives and works of two creative artists. We can note the still amazing fact of how I first came across Luther E. Vann’s work on exhibit at the Beach Institute on May 30, 1991, and found myself transcribing his painted worlds into notes for poems and essays long before considering the possibility they might one day serve as the foundation for a book. Or we may consider how the journey started on that day took another 17 years––almost to the day!–– before arriving at the destination of publication. From the writer-poet’s perspective, I remain humbled by the history accumulated along the way and which in times of doubt helped renew motivation and creative energy. That the poems eventually included in ELEMENTAL contained value far beyond kudos for an individual author was made evident when audiences at coffee house open mics expressed their enthusiasm and readers of those poems published in ESSENCE Magazine did so as well.
The greatest testimony, however, came when the story of the struggle to publish ELEMENTAL reached members of the Telfair Museum Friends of African-American Art and they in turn shared it with the city of Savannah. Members of the community (SEE “Thank You Gracious Contributors” page in Google book preview) then chose to have their say by contributing funds to raise the monies necessary to get the book published. They succeeded in a spectacular way that remains profoundly inspiring.
Whereas the great historian and humanitarian W.E.B. Du Bois once observed that “the cause of war is preparation for war,” the actions of those who made ELEMENTAL possible led me to consider that the cause of beauty and grace in the world is humanity’s empowerment of beauty and grace in the world. While it is unlikely that poetry or art shall eliminate the reality of war in the twenty-first century, it is thrilling to know there remain individuals, and even entire communities, still willing to invest in art and poetry’s own uniquely explosive contributions to the great, and small, dramas of human history.