Wednesday, December 22, 2004

What element are you?

No, it's not one of those nifty quizzes. At a writers' workshop a while back, the leader, Cricket Pechstein, gave us an exercise, asking to classify ourselves accordiwg to the four elements--earth air, fire, and water. Well, different people took it different ways, and none were wrong, of course, but I landed on a scheme that made sense to me then and still does.
  • Earth--concrete detail

  • Water--"flow" of language, line, melody; what's aesthetically pleasing, easy on the eye or ear, pleasurable to behold

  • Fire--emotion

  • Air--philosophy, ideology--the "ethereal"
A successful work of art will contain these elenents in a balance appropriate to itself. Different artists will to emphasize one element or another.

James Joyce is water; Dostoevsky is fire; Faulkner is fire and water; Henry James is fire; Steinbeck is earth; Tolstoy is air. Feel free to argue this list or add to it. I am mostly earth. I have a deep hunch that truth shines through the details.

What brought this to mind was a chat with a woman the other day. She told me she was an artist. When I asked what kind of art, she said, "Feminist. I read a lot of philosophy, and my paintings are about the fragmentation of modern life." Earth, meet air. I was asking about the medium.

Reminds me of a poem I wrote once, "To emily dickinson." I showed it to an English professor. He read it and asked what it was about. It was about three feet wide and sixteen lines long.

No comments: