Rubber-stamp wisdom

Micah Mattix, in the PRUFROCK newsletter today, informs us that in the latest issue of The Atlantic Lin-Manuel Miranda – of Hamilton fame – tells us that “All art is political.” Mirranda elaborate that “In tense, fractious times—like our current moment—all art is political. But even during those times when politics and the future of our country itself are not the source of constant worry and anxiety, art is still political.”

Mattix’s view of this:

This is the rubber-stamp-approved theory of art and has been for at least 25 years if not longer. It’s wonderfully safe, as are all rubber-stamp-approved things. Not an eyebrow would be raised nor a head lifted from slumber if you, in the squeak of adolescence, were to offer such an opinion to your AP English teacher’s pleasure—and, oh, how pleased she would be.

But all art is not political, and truth telling is not “an inherently political act.” Only people who think of all relationships (to spouses, children, dogs) as political could possibly believe such a thing—and as far as I can tell, no one actually does. Nor is art, unfortunately, “like bypass surgery,” allowing us “to go around all of the psychological distancing mechanisms that turn people cold to the most vulnerable among us”—though it is very satisfying, I’m sure, for readers of literature to think of themselves as better than others. Frank O’Hara’s manifesto “Personism” is a joke, but he wasn’t joking when he asked other poets: How “can you really care if anybody gets it, or gets what it means, or if it improves them. Improves them for what? For death? Why hurry them along? Too many poets act like a middle-aged mother trying to get her kids to eat too much cooked meat, and potatoes with drippings (tears).”  


All art, rather, is individual. I know that’s damningly ambiguous, but I don’t have time this morning to expand (I have a class to teach!). More on this later, perhaps. If there are any publishers out there who want to send me a fat book contract for 200 pages on the topic, I will consider all offers.”

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