Substance and Style

This weekend I told a group of high school girls that poetry is essentially made of two things, substance and style. A good poem says something meaningful in an an interesting way. Bad poems fail to balance these aspects, or lack both of them all together. And by good, I suppose, I mean they’re the kind of poems that I like to read. Poems that are all style leave me thinking “I guess that was cool, but what’s the point? To prove that they’re cool as an artist?” Poems that are all substance leave me thinking “That’s not art. That’s just you complaining. Blehhhh.” This substance and style formula carries over into other art forms. Visual art, like painting and photography. Music. its the reason that I like artists like Blue Scholars and Black Star.

It’s also the reason why I’m a fan of accessibility.  I’m not saying that work shouldn’t be complex. It should be. In a good work of art you should find new layers of meaning the longer you look at it/hear it/read it. What I’m saying is the number one reason that people don’t like art is usually they don’t get it. They’ve got a feeling they’re supposed to understand it, to get some kind of message out of it, but they can’t, and it makes them feel stupid. Like art is a club that only certain people are allowed in. And maybe nobody understands the art, and everyone’s just pretending to look smart. Like wine tasting.


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