On Influence: Starting and Stopping Cracks

Since it is shameless plug week at DUFL press, I thought I’d shamelessly plug an essay by my good friend, Greg Gerke,  on the Kenyon Review’s website. It’s a luminous, thoughtful essay about influences in art and what it means to create. Plus, Mr. Gerke discusses Rilke, William Gass, Wallace Stevens and Elizabeth Bishop, and God knows I love them all dearly. There are numerous passages I adore in the essay, but since I don’t want to ruin it for you, here are three:

“Inspiration is a wonderful, delicate thing, but it can be a misleading wind. It may be mandatory to create by such means but only mandatory in the way that physical attraction is between lovers. For lovers to get over themselves and get into love requires another higher caliber of emotional sensation and if they have summited the chalky pinnacle called love, they would be well advised to be fully equipped with the reach and reaction times needed to nestle one another and think of themselves second to stay there. What artists do (probably unconsciously) is destroy their notions of what is good enough again and again. Good enough can never be good enough. Let a story sit for four seasons, rewrite the poem until it is another poem. Artists think of themselves second in order for the art to be fully conscious, fully conceived…

Great art knows how to unmask. It can force one to encounter what we dare not unfurl to others. It can absorb our horror show of melancholy, swamped in thoughts, ill-fit opinions, and webbed anxieties with its silent grandeur, its elite status, its exquisite anchor of being timeless and fully alive. The work of art is never changing but the receiver is. We experience time and its spoils and wretchedness amidst the seesaw of being, whereas the Cello Suites of Bach retain their higher consciousness forever with no note ever unplayed. Similarily, Othello never grows another line—we can always only find the Turk speaking the same words from the same bed after killing his wife he falsely thought false…

 I could be silly and stupid then because I did not know the color of pain, had no inkling of responsibility or the battered escutcheon of tidings I would later brandish after a dozen years of fits and starts, fiddles with feelings, and falling for tits and talk of Dali before scouting the terrain of the beloved’s soul—sensing how trusty the one I had chosen to love might be, and asking myself why I lied when questioned if all was alright with unfit love. “

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