On Tuesday evening, I had the very great pleasure of joining Tristan and Mark (one of the most wonderful couples I know... think an excess of brains, beauty, and heart, multiplied by two) at a fundraiser for Youth Speaks. Youth Speaks is an organization that promotes the education and support of young people through spoken word, poetry, and writing. I had heard about them before, thought they sounded interesting, but never actually made the effort to investigate because I am both lazy and forgetful.
But, on Tuesday night... On Tuesday night, I saw these young people get up on a stage and perform poems to several hundred people. The poems were about their lives. Not poetic metaphors or images or strings of evocative rhythm set down in an attempt to make something readable, universal, or worthy of literary notice. These poems were raw communication, words and wishes and heart-wrenching feeling, laid out so bravely that they shocked me into remembering something about the importance of making art.
When you are lucky enough to do work as an artist, you are constantly thinking about what you are trying to say, what you are trying to make, how you are going to light the jet fuel of compassion, empathy, understanding, reaction... I think especially as a performing artist, you think about how you are going to reach that person on the other end, whether they are an actual audience member or some theoretical critical eye. You dig into your art and you are working on it, toiling over it, banging away with that ice axe on the frozen waters in people's souls.
And it's easy to forget how the making of art goes both ways. Just the act of trying to get something across, of boiling down the messiness inside you so someone else just might be able to understand, or enjoy, or be moved by what you have to say, is huge. It forces you to look hard at things and clarify. To say, this is what matters, this is what I feel, and this is what I believe.
Seeing those young people up on that stage made me remember that making art (poetry, music, stories, dance, whatever) is a chance to slam into the walls of your interior architecture, to figure out where they are and what they're made of, where you might find them splendid and where you might want to cut a door.
Tuesday was an inspiring night.