Blog Project Day 54: More on stealing….
Yesterday Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist arrived in the mail. He’s probably most famous for his “black-out” poems, which he wrote by taking a black marker to newspaper articles (mostly the NY Times, I think, but don’t quote me). The poems are epigrammatic, spare, and function as much as visual art (which is why moi discovered them courtesy of 20×200.com) as literary texts. Kleon’s also a big brain and Steal Like an Artist is sort of his creativity for dummies, except beautifully designed with sentences that read like lines of poetry or koans.
One of his premiere tenets, which I alluded to in yesterday’s post, is that there’s no such thing as originality. If you’re truly doing the work right, you’re always borrowing/stealing/reimagining/being influenced by/quoting. (The mark of the immature poet—which I certainly was in my time—is the statement, “Oh, I don’t read other people’s work. I don’t want to be influenced.”)
As Kleon writes, “You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life. You are the sum of your influences. The German writer Goethe said, ‘We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.'”
Here’s a list of those who have influenced me, and who I’ve stolen from—whether it’s actual lines, or ideas about living as an artist, or concepts. (It’s by no means exhaustive, it’d be pages and pages long, I’m sure, if I went through my accumulated body of poems one by one.)
Maureen Seaton * Denise Duhamel * Joy Harjo * Billie Holiday * the Bible * Danna Ephland * Mary Oliver * the Mighty Blue Kings * Frida Kahlo * Toni Morrison * May Sarton * Little Walter * William Eggleston * photography and sculpture, in general * Walt Whitman * Langston Hughes * Stephen Elliott * Virginia Woolf * August Wilson * Sylvia Plath * Federico Garcia Lorca * Rob Nadeau * the Catholic Mass * Lucille Clifton * the blues and hymns * a medieval altarpiece that depicted the three stages of the life of whichever saint it was
Who (or what) have you pickpocketed for art’s sake?