Art is a Process No-one Should Be Excluded From

by William Skink

I think it was a tweet that turned me on to Amy Martin’s emerging project, Threshold. For those who don’t know Amy Martin, she is an artist who has evolved from being a prolific folk musician, which led to working with kids through music that doesn’t drive mom and dad insane (Ask the Planet is an amazing album), to promoting Biomimicry, and now an ambitious podcast project called Threshold.

I’ve been getting email updates that are themselves beautifully concise vignettes written by Martin describing her process, including personal insecurities, stumbling blocks and her hope that she can pull off a form of storytelling that is not just honest, but collaborative in a way that turns her “subjects” into co-creators.

I’ve greatly appreciated these insights into another artist’s process. Even though our projects are very different, the insecurities and blocks are quite similar. Amy is trying to create an honest and genuine space for other people’s stories to grow. I’m still slogging away trying to calibrate ways to tell my own.

One of the problems in telling my story is that I’m a member of the culturally dominant demographic known as the privileged white heterosexual male, and at least one prominent poet thinks that being born with a penis means I should shut up now because my penis and all the privileged penises before me have been dominating cultural production for centuries.

Here is poet Eileen Myles telling the NYT why she thinks men should take a hike:

AC: You’ve written: ‘‘If the poetry world celebrated its female stars at the true level of their productivity and influence, poetry would wind up being a largely female world, and the men would leave.’’ What if society as a whole recognized women that way?

EM: I think it would be a great time for men, basically, to go on vacation. There isn’t enough work for everybody. Certainly in the arts, in all genres, I think that men should step away. I think men should stop writing books. I think men should stop making movies or television. Say, for 50 to 100 years.

I’d like to quickly point out to this poet who I assume values inclusion and diversity that my penis isn’t a strap-on accessory, it’s a biological reality not of my choosing. Kind of like how Eileen Myles didn’t choose to be born a white woman in America with all the privileges that entails. For example, she can drive a car and not be stoned to death for sorcery, unlike the lovely land of Saudi Arabia, which donated mightily to the Clinton Foundation.

Did I mention Eileen Myles is a Hillary supporter?

AC: You supported Hillary Clinton in 2008, but you wrote she wasn’t really a feminist until she was losing. Are you supporting her today?

EM: You know, I’ve grown to love Barack Obama. Hillary is no Bernie Sanders. But she’s a politician, and she understands Congress. And I think with that kind of twisted beauty, she could lead our country. I want a ‘‘she’’ in the White House now.

I would love to hear a poem about how one grows to love a politician who discusses which people to kill by robots on Tuesdays, then plays a round of golf on the weekend, but until Eileen Miles writes that poem, I’m just going to have to be a privileged white man writing my own damn poems.

Here’s one I’m currently trying to turn into a song, no title yet. Enjoy!


simple like a cluster bomb
happy like a clown
looking in the mirror
at the upside down

stupid like the stars at night
clever like a clock
hoping like a rabbit
the shadow’s not a hawk

sliver like your aging hair
crazy like the screen
droning deep inside your mind
defining what you mean

tension like before a quake
rupturing the earth
evil, their intention
coming, what they birth

seven like all the days
making up the week
purple Queens and kerosene
blessed are the meek

three a holy trinity
trifecta at the track
horses run in circles
eyes obscured by hats

do not cry for Leonard
his voice it drips with blood
belief absolves the sinners
of war his petty grudge

grumpy like a Democrat
still in disbelief
giddy guns of liberty
think they’ll get relief

gullible like chickens
sent into the yard
when they come to roost
the blade it will be sharp

disembodied singers
took the hint and left
but don’t you cry for Leonard
his tower stand for death

temple like a genocide
smiles that chill your bones
Prince and George and Bowie
punched their ticket home

ten plus ten is twenty
eight plus eight, sixteen
seven like a solemn promise
I don’t know what that means

fuse anticipation
in my hand, a match
it’s time to set it off
the engine stops his laugh

time travel ain’t easy
just ask Donald J
back now to the future
tomorrow never came

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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4 Responses to Art is a Process No-one Should Be Excluded From

  1. steve kelly says:

    Social engineering, censorship, identity politics and political correctness have nearly killed art. Whether it is a process, or a product, or some combination of both, art that lacks passion and the soul of the individual — regardless of a person’s category — is useless and empty. Art measured by its popularity is equally useless. At this point, nothing short of a miracle can reconnect western culture to art or nature.

    • JC says:

      How’s the gallery doing these days Steve? I’m doing some work for 4-5 artists/photogs right now, and always looking to hear how showings are going…

      • steve kelly says:

        Pretty slow. Since we left Main St. sales have almost exclusively been through interior designers working on new homes. Museums aren’t doing much that hasn’t already been hashed and rehashed, so not much to talk about these days.

        • Big Swede says:

          My sis-in law and her husband are known artists in MT. They told me when we gathered for Christmas that sales had been slow for them, in fact if it weren’t for sales to relatives it would’ve been a rather bleak holiday.

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