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  • B.A. Simmons

Writing is Art

I teach my students poetry; what it is, how to read it and how to write it. When it comes time to announce this project, there come the inevitable groans from some of them. They are teenagers, after all. When I ask "Who likes poetry?", I usually only get half a dozen hands. But then I ask them, "Who likes music?".

Every hand goes up.

I then say, "If you like music, you like poetry." Two dozen faces scrunch up in consternation. Slowly, they realize that music is poetry. Even instrumental pieces without vocal accompaniment are written in the language of the instruments; expressing melody and harmony.

If music is poetry, then poetry is art. It is said that well-written prose should feel like poetry to the reader. If that is the case, then writing is art as well.

We tend to think of art in either its visual or acoustic qualities without realizing that the written word holds these as well. While prose doesn't tend to emote via the actual words on the page, the images conjured in the imagination by these words is artistic expression. Poets often structure their meter in such a way to create a visual art (i.e. John Donne or E.E. Cummings).

Alliteration, onomatopoeia, and syntax create an acoustic quality to words that can both please and offend the ear, in both poetry and prose.

Writing is art.

As in all art, there are quality pieces that strike the reader's soul. It speaks to them, enlightens them to their own humanity and that of others. It brings them closer to God (in whatever form the reader's faith dictates) or their friends and family. It can also be used to tear rifts in humanity. The power of words can be used to sow the seeds of strife, escalate conflict or turn friends into enemies. Sticks and stones may be what breaks the bones, but the words are what cause people to take them up.

We need to understand the power of the written (and spoken) word. Words are not light. They have a weight that either bears down on the soul of humanity or creates a foundation upon which they can lift up civilizations.

This is the power of art: to inspire man to greatness or debase him as nothing more than an animal.

In an interview, I was asked "Why do you think it’s important for young people to follow creative pursuits and passions?"

This was my answer: " Art is the substance of life. We might think we can live without it; that it’s trivial or superfluous. However, we need art like we need food and water. Therefore, we need artists. My greatest fear is that we will consume art far faster than we create it. We will end up with a generation without great art. We must not only pursue our creative impulses, but strive to magnify them. Make them as beautiful, as awe inspiring and as wondrous as possible.

I still hold to this ideal. Art is the substance of life. We cannot live without it and the responsibility of all artists, whether they be writers, painters, sculptors, architects or dancers; is to create art that uplifts us.


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