Thursday, October 06, 2005

Anyone out there? Calling artists & parents

I don't know if anyone is still out there reading this anymore, but if there is anyone, my apologies--I've been working very hard. Writing. Nothing all that great coming of it yet, but I reviewed my work and realized, I think as you always do in retrospect, what the preoccupations have been. For me this time, pattern in many forms: repeated phrases, exploration of non-metrical rhythms, rhyme and slant rhyme patterns. So now, maybe, it's time to move on to something else.

I've been reading David Antin's book of 'talk' poems, i never knew what time it was. He says that, for him, an artist is "somebody who does the best he can", meaning that an artist has to take responsiblity for his or her works, while big corporations, for example, do not have to do so. Artists have to do the best they can "because their life is at stake".

Interesting. Antin also notes that anyone working who does the best they can is also an artist--for example, a plumber or anything else. Seems as though, according to Antin's definition, parents are undeniably artists.

I think also about Georgetown Hospital's slogan, "the art of medicine," which we saw 20 million times during Robert's various early hospitalizations. That rings so very true. While Robert was sick, I learned the cold, hard truth about medicine, which is that it is an inexact science, despite its pretenses to hard data. We could find no hard data on Robert--therefore interpreting his illness was an art because we and the doctors simply had to do the best we could.

When I first realized that something dramatically wrong was happening with my son, I drove frantically down to the hospital assuring myself that we would get there and the doctors would be able to tell me what was wrong, because that's what they do. You go to the doctor and they do some tests and an answer is revealed. But extrarodinary events reveal the seams and fissures in what seems the soundest structures.

There's no manual for the parenting I have to do; therefore, I do the best I can. So I must be (or hope to be) an artist on all fronts: home life, work life, everything that falls inbetween. And that seems satsifying. I realized early on how shallow and ridiculous (fascist even) were all the parenting books and magazines. I wrote to Parenting magazine once about why they never had a picture of a disabled child in their magazine, or anything about raising them other than horror stories warning about looking for signs of difference in your children. They wrote back to me and suggested that perhaps I would like my money back on my subscription.

It feels emotional satisfying to apply David Antin's credo about artists to parenting: do the best you can because that shows you accept full responsibility for your work--don't read manuals and follow procedures and expect the best because then you're shifting responsiblity where it doesn't belong.


Anonymous said...

Hey Jeneva-- I love your blog! It's a regular stop on my internet travels. Keep 'em coming...

jeneva said...


James McQuillen said...

Still here, J -- that's me screeching up, peering in and speeding off when the twins are napping. This is a great post; the Parenting magazine anecdote is priceless, and you close with a more valuable paragraph than a person could find in a stack of mommy/daddy how-to books. Keep it up.