How does one describe music? Or a painting? Or the process through which these, and other art forms, are created? Dan Matson takes on these challenges and more in his poetry book The Art of Art, a poetic study of the philosophies, methods, and meanings of art.
The Art of Art consists of individual chapters focusing on themes (“Aesthetic,” “Space,” “Creation”), specific types of art or artists (“Dance,” “Composer,” “Architecture”) or related topics (“Critic,” “Award”). Each page contains a short grouping of verse (most pages have no more than eight lines) that combines with other pages in the chapter to form a continuous, cohesive statement.
Matson is a painter and a poet, but he’s also bold in tackling other arts, such as theater, and delving deeply into them. There’s a kind of invisible barrier, a degree of separation, that makes it difficult to relate the essence of artistic creation to another person via a secondhand description, but Matson does a skillful job skirting those boundaries and coming about as close to imparting the actual experience as possible.
The poetry is abstract and meant to be thought-provoking, often addressing fundamental questions about art, as in these lines from the chapter “Critic”:“ How much of art/is creator’s intent/And how much/is accident/That sends design’s/ shifting motion/In undesigned/ directions?”
The Art of Art demands the reader’s contribution, as the poems can be intentionally sparse or vague, leaving well-conceived gaps for readers to fill through their own experiences with art. Readers looking for vivid imagery or concise descriptions of nature commonly found in poetry won’t discover much along those lines here — this is not poetry that has been sculpted into images, but rather a poetry of impressionism.
Matson’s effective and interactive philosophical verse will make readers think, and possibly reconsider their own approaches to art, whether as creator or spectator. Taken in that vein, it is a collection well worth reading.
Also available in hardcover.