Recommended Reading on Craft, Poetry, and Creativity in Business
Jorie Graham, Gabrielle Octavia Rucker, creative nonfiction, and advertising as storytelling...
I have been thinking a lot about writing, about pursuing creativity and art on a personal level, and about writing as a skillset for storytelling in advertising and business. This month, the articles and books I have been reading, have inspired me to speak about how poetic thinking and art influences creative business thinking for me.
There are two articles competing for prime explanatory space (and this week’s highly recommended reading) at the top of this newsletter - the first, Jorie Graham’s Late Work, a biographic profile of the contemporary American poet, and the second, The Origins of Creativity, a longform review in The New Yorker of Samuel W. Franklin’s book, “The Cult of Creativity.”
I first read Jorie Graham’s poetry when I was sixteen; if you’ve ever asked about the text of the tattoo on my left forearm, it reads “to catch the world / at pure idea” from her poem “The Nature of Evidence.” She also won the Pulitzer in 1996, which you’ll learn in this article and in every piece written about her. But the point is, this opening paragraph:
“To speak into silence is something very dramatic” is something Jorie Graham is given to say, and it is a statement that seems true when she in particular says it. Silence “is the sound of the earth.” Silence “does not need you to interrupt it.” Interrupting the silence is something one must justify, ideally by becoming the person who can write the book worthy of breaking it. -Kerry Howley
Here the question for the artist, the poet, the creative: is what I am saying (writing, painting, singing, sharing) justified? Is my point of view worth sharing? Is there silence, amidst the noise of social media to even break anymore? (see last week’s newsletter…) Why contribute to more noise, if that’s the case?
This is a beautifully written profile, written in a narrative style that brings me to the topic of creative nonfiction and The Origins of Creativity. In reviewing this new book, Louis Menand seeks first to define “creative nonfiction,” and then goes on to share with us an overview of the book by Franklin.
Whether you go on to read the book or not (which I plan to do, eventually), this review is worth a read for its brief presentation of “creativity” as a concept in the book:
Franklin says that, around 1950, psychologists realized that no one had done the same thing for creativity. There was no creativity I.Q. or SAT, no science of creativity or means of measuring it. So they set out to, well, create one…Making something new, original, and surprising is what is meant by being creative, and a better mousetrap qualifies. What about creating something new, original, and terrible, like a weapon of mass destruction? Psychologists seem to have danced around that problem. For the most part, being creative, like being intelligent, rich, and thin, was something a person could never have too much of.
When psychologists asked what sort of habits and choices were markers of creativity, they came up with things like “divergent thinking” and “tolerance for ambiguity.” They reported that, on tests, creative people preferred abstract art and asymmetrical images. As Franklin points out, those preferences also happened to match up with the tastes of the mid-century educated classes. To put it a little more cynically, the tests seem to have been designed so that the right people passed them.
OK, go read the whole article. It ties all this art and writing thinking to business and creativity - “Making something new, original, and surprising is what is meant by being creative, and a better mousetrap qualifies.” Menand goes on to bring up the premium placed on “Creativity” in Silicon Valley and startup culture.
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Meanwhile, before this month’s newsletter gets too long, I want to encourage you to read two other pieces about writing and creativity:
Eileen Myles on Discovering the Poetic Core of Everyday Life this is a craft talk given at NYU’s MFA Creative Writing Program in February 2023.
Gabrielle Octavia Rucker on the Power of Decentering Human Experience in Poetry as a contrast to the profile of Jorie Graham and Myles’s writing on craft. Graham is steeped in the educational institutions of art and literature; Myles is literally speaking to New York University Students. Rucker describes herself as “self-taught.” She says, “I don’t have an MFA. I don’t have a college degree of any kind. My highest level of completed education is high school and that used to be a point of shame and embarrassment for me. When most of my friends were in school, I was working as a janitor, and I was jealous of the opportunities being in a classroom gave them…Everything they were reading had some exchange rate attached to it that my reading practice didn’t. If I didn’t like a book, I could stop reading it and pick up another—I didn’t have to waste time writing a nine-page book report on something that didn’t interest me. There was no penalty of refusal or failure. For better or worse, my formative years as a writer were not shaped under anyone’s poetic ideals but my own.”
In conclusion - I am thinking about the study of literature, and what it means to NOT have studied literature/writing, and NOT to worship at the altar of Dickinson or Yeats or _____ take your pick. What CREATIVITY means in business, and what it means to NOT have attended business school, even.
Be only concerned about yourself and your work. The rest will follow. BE the artist. DO the job of CEO. You cannot simply perform either.
LISTENING TO: Anoushka Shankar Of course I looked her up, of course yes she is the daughter of Ravi Shankar
RECOMMENDED READING - Top of Mind
Eileen Myles on Discovering the Poetic Core of Everyday Life - One of my favorite sections of this brilliant piece: “The burger was so good and it was kind of a sacrament. The blood was in my mouth and the mouth of my dog and she loves that cow so much and she’s eating her. We’re eating her together. And strangely that does something to the depths of my inconsolable pain. Is it because I’m an ex-Catholic. I don’t think it’s that I’m a monster too. You can argue that I shouldn’t eat beef at all if I love that wet mouthed cow who may or may not be there in Texas when I get back on Sunday. Should or shouldn’t isn’t my job, not really. My job is noticing even courting the conditions of irreconcilable pain, not trying to get out of it or drive it away and talking about it does make it worse but I want to talk about it and I do till I am satisfied or the talk moves away to something else but my job is to see myself eating the bloody meat and understanding that in some way I am participating in the sacrament of violence for as long as I am alive and there is no clean place. I am for it. I weigh it. Not the violence but the taste of the blood, knowing it and enjoying and then the meal is done.”
BRIAN DILLON’S ESSAY COLLECTION ‘AFFINITIES’ IS A MEDITATION ON THE ART OF LOOKING "He writes atmospherically and impressionistically rather than critically."
How Gen Z Changed Its Views On Gender - With regards to Play Out, Gen Z buying power and the new generation of consumer, and why this is the perfect opportunity to acquire a brand like mine. Intrigued? Get in touch!
Heavenly Bodies - Space burials sell a shot at immortality "Though in fact only three people have ever died in space—Georgy Dobrovolsky, Viktor Patsayev, and Vladislav Volkov—our hyperbolized idea of its danger speaks to a primal desire for control over the chaos of the universe and a need to find meaning within our comparatively small lives...But as technologist and designer Neilson Koerner-Safrata explains in his research project KOSMOS/NEKROS, the popular understanding of death in space has changed. As he writes, “the cosmologies of the past sacralize space as the site where the divine epilogue of life takes place. Today, space is now being framed on our behalf as a moratorium on EXIT or NO EXIT, where what is at stake for life must be decided up there or down here.” Put differently, space once seemed to be the ultimate reminder of human mortality and insignificance, but now it seems to represent the opposite—yet another domain for human domination. "
"All Souls" by Saskia Hamilton
NEWS / LONG-FORM JOURNALISM
My High-Flying Life as a Corporate Spy Who Lied His Way to the Top
Is this really well-written narrative nonfiction? Or a fucking short story? I couldn't believe it!
“The Speed! That Danger!”: Ann-Margret Is Still Riding Her Harley at 81
My biggest complaint is why is this piece so short??!!
BUSINESS / STARTUPS / INVESTING
Bed Bath & Beyond Comprehension - The dumb, very modern death of a former retail heavyweight.
BRAIN / MIND
The Craft in Writing Characters with Messy Psychology - Written by the daughter of a psychologist, "I veered daily between bouts of despair and exultation that would exhaust me now but at the time seemed energizing. I also adored my mother and wanted her to myself. Consulting the DSM, I diagnosed myself with all ten personality disorders the way I once misted myself with her entire collection of perfumes."
Philosophy’s Big Oversight - If the discipline is concerned with the nature of human existence, then a canon dominated by men isn’t just incomplete—it’s distorted.
ART / LITERATURE
Photographing the rabid counterculture of 70s NYC: In 'Nowhere New York', Julia Gorton captures the city's punk and no wave subcultures in all their hedonistic glory.
The Ferry (Fiction) “When everything is poetry I know I am unwell. The advent of new senses is a sign...And seeing signs is a sign, as in: I emerged from the train at Bryant Park and there, on the corner of Sixth Avenue, was a pile of broken silvered glass along the curb. The fragments still worked. What you need to do is resist seeing pattern where there is none, said a reasonable voice. But hearing voices is a sign, I joked to myself. You can’t function when everything takes on meaning.”
OTHER / PERSONAL INTEREST / RANDOM
A Modern-Day Gatsby: The Tragedy of Two Gilded Heiresses (This is like... Real-Crime TV in article form)
Dead Ringers and the Horrific True Story of the “Father of Modern Gynecology”
The True Story of Dead Ringers: The infamous death of twin gynecologists—which was first reported in Esquire in 1976—has reared its head once again, with a new Amazon series.
The expensive, unrealistic, and extremely white world of “momfluencers”
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