Monday Inspiration: Jack Gilbert and why I make art / by Jessica Hunter

Portrait; Jack Gilbert

Portrait; Jack Gilbert

He's handsome. Courageous. Private. And has a middle ground between a realist and optimist. He's Whitmaneque in his poetry, which makes me love him even more, full of passion and romance and grandiose thoughts. As The Atlantic quotes "he's only interested in the big mysteries: God, sex, love, suffering, redemption." 

Last night's blood supermoon lunar eclipse. We drove to a graveyard in a cornfield to watch it through binoculars. I will never forget that night. 

Last night's blood supermoon lunar eclipse. We drove to a graveyard in a cornfield to watch it through binoculars. I will never forget that night. 

I ask myself often, what are we supposed to do with all the suffering in this world? Near and far. Close and untouchable. How are we supposed to live? Help? It's easy to get caught up in the analysis, asking why? But it's only ever been an act of beauty that breaks through to me when I can't seem to muster my way out of those dark, dingy, dusty confused corners of my mind. When I get into an overwhelming funk, Art is this glorious world full of hidden answers to the mysteries of my heart's questionings. Sometimes it's in the form of a rare lunar eclipse, or a bouquet of flowers for a friend, or the sound of your sister singing an old hymn from the bathroom, or a painting of Oktoberfest Munich by Dorian Fitzgerald, or the meditative prose of Marilynne Robinson's Gilead or collectively transforming an old decrepit, abandoned house into a Art Exhibit turned Flower Farm (Flower House - a project I'm designing for on Oct. 16-18 in Detroit). The truth is, the world is terrible and wonderful, but as Gilbert cries out, our obligation is to joy - to wonder! It often doesn't solve everything but it's a balm for the soul and Jack Gilbert's "A Brief for the Defense" was a little bit of that for me this week.

A picture of me taken by my sister from our visit to the AGH yesterday. 

A picture of me taken by my sister from our visit to the AGH yesterday. 

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies

are not starving someplace, they are starving

somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.

But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.

Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not

be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not

be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women

at the fountain are laughing together between

the suffering they have known and the awfulness

in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody

in the village is very sick. There is laughter

every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,

and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.

If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,

we lessen the importance of their deprivation.

We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,

but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have

the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless

furnace of this world. To make injustice the only

measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.

If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,

we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.

We must admit there will be music despite everything.

We stand at the prow again of a small ship

anchored late at night in the tiny port

looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront

is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.

To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat

comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth

all the years of sorrow that are to come.