PEN America Emergency Writers Fund

Artists have to train themselves to not link their own self-esteem to outside validation. In THIS culture, the job is much harder because of what the composer Charles Wuorinen said to the New York Times in a 1991 interview:

We have reached the stage, under the impulse of cultural populism, where we are incapable of measuring or acknowledging artistic merit except in terms of commercial success. We don’t distinguish between the committed, passionate audience and the trend-seeking yuppie audience. We just count bodies and measure sales.

Wuorinen died Wednesday, March 11.

So, an artist does the work, hopes that they can pay the rent and “live cheaply in a tasty way” as Nanao Sakaki is said to have uttered. They can only hope their gesture is allowed to go as deep as possible and the depth and beauty of it is recognized eventually. I agree with Clyfford Still who said that “demands for communication are presumptuous and irrelevent.”

So to get this on Wednesday:

was helpful and validating. Combined with an Artist Trust grant in March, things are not too bad here (for now) despite upcoming Cyberknife radiation treatment for prostate cancer starting June 12.

PEN America (a letter combination I love BTW) has a tagline “The freedom to write.” For me, they’ve helped make it so. In the months ahead I’ll give updates on the specific writing and interview projects (other than POPO and American Sentences) on which I am working, in part, thanks to PEN America. With huge gratitude to them and Artist Trust.

Artist Trust

About Splabman

Paul Nelson is founder of SPLAB (Seattle Poetics LAB) in Seattle, the Cascadia Poetry Festival and the August POetry POstcard Fest (PoPo). He has published a collection of essays, Organic Poetry & a serial poem re-enacting the history of Auburn, WA, A Time Before Slaughter (shortlisted for a 2010 Genius Award by The Stranger) and American Sentences, a book of 17 syllable poems drawn from the first fourteen of his 20 years of daily practice. The tenth anniversary edition of that book includes Pig War: & Other Songs of Cascadia. He’s interviewed Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Wanda Coleman, Anne Waldman, Sam Hamill, Robin Blaser, Nate Mackey, Eileen Myles, George Bowering, Diane di Prima, Brenda Hillman, George Stanley, Joanne Kyger & many Cascadia poets (see: has presented his poetry and poetics in London, Brussels, Bothell, Cumberland, BC, Qinghai and Beijing, China, Lake Forest, Illinois, Ukiah, CA, and other places & writes an American Sentence every day.
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2 Responses to PEN America Emergency Writers Fund

  1. Abhaya Thomas says:

    Congrats on receiving this grant! Despite not considering myself much of a poet or ‘real artist’ the constant sruggle not to seek validation when I participate publicly is truly real. The older I get the more this stuff just needs to have an outlet. Really sorry to hear of your health concerns. Many blessings and healing vibes your way.

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