PEN America Emergency Writers Fund

May 1, 2020

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


  1. Abhaya Thomas

    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.

    • Splabman

      Bless you Abhaya. Thanks for your kind words and inspired POPO participation. I treasure your postcards.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

You May Also Like …

9.28.2022 @ Underbelly

9.28.2022 @ Underbelly

  Once I survived the promotional photo shoot for the Underbelly reading, I was ready for the event. I'll be part...

read more
Nuchatlitz, Artful

Nuchatlitz, Artful

Bhakti and I were delighted to have been offered a chance to visit Nuchatlitz, BC, thanks to Adelia MacWilliam and...

read more