Friday, July 6, 2007

cAtaToNiCaLly SpEaKiNg

Since the inception of Clockwise Cat just a short time ago, we have been resolute in our mission to feature progressive poetry, fiction, art and polemics.

However, a few of you may be wondering if "progressive" is too broad of a term to use when calling for submissions of this type.

'Tis true that progressive is a broad classification, and yet we feel it also encompasses connotations that can be more narrowly defined.

Take the above painting by Keith Haring, for example. In my mind, the painting represents everything that an ideal progressive purview contains. The painting is rife with whimsical, childlike scrawlings that beckon the forces of peace, love and compassion.

Indeed, young children are the ultimate progressives, being possessed of spacious minds and tender hearts. They are also shockingly straightforward in demeanor. Some would categorize children's straightforwardness as a form of cruelty - yet I maintain that theirs a naive cruelty, and therefore rendered benign. Children are refreshingly candid, in fact, and if their candor sometimes stings, all the better. Frank expression of the sort that chidlren display - their emotions are laid bare at every moment, without concern for consequences - is what is needed to propel the world forward in a more honest fashion. True, unfettered emotional outbursts can stifle progress, too, which is why it's better to cultivate childlike (i.e., selflessly comical) responses to the universe rather than childish (i.e., selfishly callous) ones.

Keith Haring, it should be noted, was an AIDS activist. Socio-political activism of this sort is progressive to the core, for it advances crucial concern for humanity's well-being. And Haring's paintings were exercises in youthful abandon, and it's this playful quality that evokes peaceful, happy feelings in viewers.

Progressive, then, is a term that favors maintaining a youthful outlook, one which boldly calls for relentless evolution. In overly simplistic terms, this would mean, say, favoring peace over war, since war has been the standard and peace as envisaged by Gandhi, MLK, and others, has been a revolutionary force. But a progressive worldview need not shun shades of grey, either, for the ultimate progressive philosophy is one that does not hew to external ideology, but indeed always seeks solutions from within.

As for progressive forms of art, one could argue that all art is progressive. But this, I think, is a malicious mischaracterization of art. Art arises out of the impulse to create, and the creative impetus is intrinsically progressive. But what one does with the creative impulse - what type of art one crafts from that impulse - is what determines whether the art product leans toward the progressive, or more toward the traditional. Art that explodes through stagnant ideals is progressive while art that upholds traditional values is not. Art that pioneers new forms is progressive, while art that keeps within strict boundaries is not. And so on.

Consider Picasso's "Guernica," for example. Cubism was a pioneering art form at the time that Picasso was painting, and his masterpiece deals with the awful agonies of war. This theme is progressive because war, tragically, is somehow ingrained in the human psyche as something, merely, that people are programmed to do - while to protest against war (through an artistic or other medium) is to brashly assert that we are also programmed for peace, and compassion.

Or contrast TS Eliot's "The Hollow Man" with, say, a more formalist poem. Even though Eliot himself produced a body of critical work whose ideas clung fiercly to traditional poetic values, "The Hollow Man" is anything but traditional in terms of form, language, theme, and so on. (And I don't care what the scholars say about that, either; many scholars have a stick up their ass. Thankfully some do not, and they know who they are.)

Issue Two is teeming with progressive art - there's humor, inventiveness and subtle satire in the fiction pieces, and in the poetry selections there are odd linguistic flourishes, and innovative themes. These pieces compel us to reflect on our world in unusual ways.

One new aspect of Clockwise Cat is the Featured Poem and Featured Fiction, by Athene Grele and R. Jill Fink, respectively. These featured pieces are essentially editor's picks. The editor considers all published pieces in The Cat standouts, but these two have scintillating qualities that set them apart. You'll note that Athene Grele is still a teenager - in fact, she's in early high school. The poem is outstanding regardless of her age, but her piece proves to us that youth is the province of forward-thinking forms and ideas. And Jill Fink's flash fiction emerges as a light and shadows affair; shadowy for its quiet horror, and yet laced with a certain sly humor.

Issue Two also features blunt satire, the ultimate revolt against suffocating sameness. Clockwise Cat heartily calls for submissions of this sort for Issue Three.

Vietamese Buddhist Monk Thich Naht Hanh said that, "The way we live our daily lives is what most affects the situation of the world. If we can change our daily lives, then we can change our governments and can change the world." Progressive art and political activism give voice to the nagging desire to change and grow. May we all work for change within ourselves through our art and artful living, so that the world may be buoyed by lighthearted joy, rather than encumbered by darkhearted ignorance.

NOTE TO ARTISTS AND WRITERS: Thank you once again for your quality submissions, which give this fledging webzine a sparkling presence. If you catch any errors in your published pieces, please send me an e-mail, and I will revise promptly.

No comments: