Why Art?

Posted: February 8, 2010 in Poetry

One of the things that you get with these blogs is the ability to track statistics about the numbers of hits you get during a day.

On Friday I got my most hits ever (39). Thanks!

On Saturday and Sunday I got exactly zero.

Have people figured out that I don’t generally post on the weekends? Maybe it was just a fluke?

Capital Slam was great on Saturday. We had TEN poets who hadn’t slammed yet this season, taking the total number of poets who have competed on our stage this season to 61.

We are the Roger Maris of slam poetry… with four more qualifying slams to go!

CONTEXT: February, 2007

Yeah, so you have probably heard this one if you have seen me perform…pretty much ever. 🙂

This was a huge turning point for me. I feel like I found my voice here. I discovered a way to toss out the traditional rhyme structure while still keeping the rhythm of the words (and still using rhyme when I like it…).

The month I debuted it with Growing Up, I came the closest I ever had to actually winning a slam. I finished behind Free Will by .5, after getting a .5 time deduction due to excessive laughter during Growing Up.

Not exactly a bad reaction.

This one, however, I had just written and had to read it off paper. It still went over big, and it kept going over big as I edited it a bit (dropping the Mandala sand painting part was hard, but worth it) and memorized it.

This poem (along with Orders) put me in 4th during the semifinals and helped me get onto the Capital Slam team my first year. In September I achieved two things with this piece: my first (and only, so far) perfect 30 score at a slam, and my first slam win (paired with Halifax, which is still a ways off in this blog).

I MAY have performed it when I won my second slam as well (this one out in Lanark County), but I actually can’t recall just now.
It was also the first poem I performed at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in Halifax, but it didn’t go over so well there.

The last mention for this Why Art? trip down memory lane is the Capital Slam 5th Anniversary Show held in October, 2009. We did a slam with invited performers from all of the five year history of the show. I drew the bullet and performed first in the first round. The flipside to that was that I was performing last in the show. I decided to do Why Art?, as I hadn’t done it in a while and the show WAS an anniversary show, so…


Hearing large portions of the crowd ‘sing along’ when I was doing it was amazing.

Sometimes people make me feel like I made the right choice, taking up spoken word…

    Why Art?

I heard asked, ‘Why Art?’
At first I couldn’t understand the question
As Why Art? sounded to me like
When a tree? Or where blue?
Then I realized they meant why pay for Art
With your time, money, taxes or attention?

I think that’s the wrong question
It shoud be, if not for Art, why exist?
Human nature is to persist
As the struggle for survival
Turns into faith tent revivals
As people look for a calling
Something less galling or apalling
Then living to procreate
But living to create
That’s a whole new thing
Whether it’s a person you bring
From an egg and a sperm
Or words that you turn
Into a whole new shape
Since we were apes
We knew that what is new
Is to be feared, loved
Coveted and admired.

So it it Art for Art’s sake?
Life without Art is vapid and hollow
Merely existing is demeaning and shallow
Life needs Art, breeds Art

We absorb it every day
Take it in, in every way
Art surrounds us
Astounds us
Confounds us
Drowns us in love and beauty
And rage and misery
It takes your heart and gives it a
Sweet caress
It grabs your guts and twists them in
A gordian mess
It takes your brain
Drops it in a blender
Presses puree
Until it spits out a molten stew
Of goo and you and maybe some
New ideas, too.

So is it Art for Life’s sake?
Does Art just get us through the day
From morning to night, just to say
Job well done? It’s purpose served
A tool for a life preserved
Like an orange kisby ring
Thrown to a drowning man
Before he goes under
One… last… time

Art makes grey days lighter
Or darker
Or even greyer
It can be uplifting
But it doesn’t have to be
It can be revealing
But that’s not all it can be
It can be chaotic and maddening
Joyful and pandering
Lighting the way ahead
Or examining the way behind
Or side to side
Nowhere to hide
Except behind Art.

But Art reveals instead of conceals
Or is it the other way around?

So is it Life for Art’s sake?
Do we exist just to leave our mark?
To be remembered and dismembered
Analyzed and demonized
Is history cement wet with the promise
Of the future
And imprinted with the outline of the past?

Art as memory remembers only one end of Art
Ignoring the listener, viewer, engorger, consumer
As much a part of Art at the finish
As at the start

Art doesn’t need an audience
But with one it changes, exchanges and rearranges
Art is in the ear and eye and hand
Art is where we breathe
And where we stand

Art IS Life
And Life IS Art

They cannot be seperated
Like Paolo and Francesca
As Dante reminds us that Art
Reflects, rejects, protects and projects

All of nature is Art
No matter who or what the artist
A kiss is Art
A punch is Art
That little feeling in the pit of your stomach
The back of yoru brain
Or around your heart
That tells you that SHE is the one…


To ignore Art is to ignore Life

So why Art?

I’m afraid you are going to have to rephrase the question


Still my favourite ending out of any of my poems.

Next is the poem that convinced a listener at Dusty Owl that I was a musician.

  1. […] didn’t really have a fallback choice since I was at the point where everything I wrote before Why Art? had dimmed substantially in my […]

  2. […] were in town from Montreal and they had never seen me perform so I decided to switch it up and do Why Art? first, to make sure they got to see me do what I thought was my best […]

  3. […] some ways, Why Art? is my most successful poem. In other ways it is this […]

  4. […] This piece was inspired by BGL’s The Discourse of Elements. It also has links (obviously) to my earlier piece, Why Art? […]

  5. […] LOVE what Danielle and Kevin have done to “Why Art?” I LOVE having them join in on “Icarus” and […]

  6. […] poem that was a sequal of sorts to What is Art? that I wrote to perform at the National Art […]

  7. […] Then came the second round. I did Tricks, which is, quite frankly, one of the best poems I have ever written. That is just my opinion, of course, but the slam results have born that out. I actually keep track of such things (mostly because I am a spreadsheet nerd, not because there are enough collected statistics to make these results meaningful), but coming into the slam Tricks was the second most ‘successful’ poem I had ever done at CapSlam (after Why Art?). […]

  8. […] set list: Why Art? The Stranger FN Moving to Arizona The Four Horsemen (debut!) Four-Colour World (debut!) […]

  9. […] Now flash forward to 2007. I was in my first full year as a spoken word poet and I was writing what turned out to be my breakthrough, signature poem: Why Art? […]

  10. […] feature. That meant I had four poems fairly fresh in my mind. One was Angst. The other three were Why Art?, Moving to Arizona and […]

  11. […] affected Ikenna. He spoke soem beautiful words… then moved on to one of my mine. Ikenna did Why Art? and did it great justice. Ikenna is one of my […]

  12. […] was received very strongly. In fact, my infamous spreadsheet said it was my #2 poem, after only Why Art? ever. So I put it away to save it for the send of […]

  13. […] one performance, followed by Stroll on and then a tie between The Stranger and Blue, Black or Red. Why Art? had always been at the top, but my disappointing showing at the semi-finals this year dropped it […]

  14. […] the first round, I performed Why Art? And got my first ever perfect 30. In the second round I performed Halifax for the first time and […]

  15. […] Featuring at OYPS |… on Why Art? […]

  16. […] decided to do Why Art? I ran through it… and stumbled a bit, but I got it back and figured I was good to go. I […]

  17. […] isn’t the BEST parody of Why Art? ever done. (That would be Nathanael Larochette’s ‘Why Fart?) But it was still pretty […]

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