There is no more stage. There are no more footlights. You are among the people. Then be modest. Speak the words, convey the data, step aside. Be by yourself. Be in your own room. Do not put yourself on.
Speak the words with the exact precision with which you would check out a laundry list…The poem is nothing but information. It is the constitution of the inner country. If you declaim it and blow it up with noble intentions then you are no better than the politicians whom you despise. You are just someone waving a flag and making the cheapest kind of appeal to a kind of emotional patriotism. Think of the words as science, not as art. They are a report.
(Leonard Cohen, How To Speak Poetry, from Death of A Lady’s Man, 1979)
Writer Statement 1
What should a writer be stating? Should it be something rebellious like ‘Viva la revolution!’? Should it be something gentle like “I love you’ or should it be something morbid-smart-ass like ‘Writing is like death and death is the end and that is the limit and trying to go beyond that limit is futile’ and all that kind of stuff?
No, those don’t sound like real statements. They sound like somebody wanting attention.
Maybe a writer is somebody who wants attention? Maybe he is seeking attention? Maybe he just doesn’t want to be alone? Maybe that is the feeling he is transferring to the reader?
The writer writes.
The statement states.
That is the inherent contradiction in a Writer’s Statement.
A writer tries to hide by writing, not to state something.
So in fact he is not looking for attention. He is trying to draw attention to his writing so that he can escape in the meantime. It’s like a decoy. Writing is a decoy.
He writes in order to erase himself.
This should be my Writer Statement:
“I am a writer and I am going to disappear. While you are reading this I am already somewhere else. You will never find me.”
Writer Statement 2
To write a Writer Statement means that I already admit that I am a writer in first place. Only a writer can write a writer statement. Someone who isn’t a writer shouldn’t be writing any kind of writer statement. But if I am already stating that I am a writer isn’t that what the statement should be proving? That I am a writer. That I write. It is a confession that I am a writer. A writer statement is a confession that one is a writer.
I am a writer.
My nose hurts.
At first I thought it hurts because its growing,
growing from all of my lies like Pinocchio.
I imagined myself walking around a little Italian village
and meeting some guy who would promise to make me real,
to make me real famous.
Then I sat around and thought to myself that writing is like lying,
because it always misses the point
there is always something else I want to be talking about,
but I end up talking about what’s in front of my nose.
What if I were to stop writing?
Would my nose stop growing?
Would it stop hurting?
But writing is what makes me feel real.
And how would I become real,
how would I become real famous,
if I were to stop writing?
Would I be able to become real famous by stopping to write?
Maybe stopping to write would make me real?
Maybe It would make me focus more on life
and less on telling all these lies.
Maybe my nose will stop hurting,
and my lies would stop lying,
and I would be just ‘one of us’,
a good old jew boy with a big nose.
AN INDIRECT DIALOGUE
The following exchange took place by email from 23rd-25th January 2012.
VSK: That’s a very interesting statement by Leonard Cohen isn’t it! Particularly those ideas of “information” and “report” and how those might sit with us now.
I’m thinking about this alongside your previous residency writings – that sense in the last post of observation, reportage in some ways, in the bar…. the way that from post to post I feel as a reader I can follow a series of kinds of attentions, not a linear flow but a series of distinct positions…
Out of the Cohen comes a cluster of terms and concerns through which to think about writing – the ambiguity of how it feels and effects: “state” and “statement”, different notions of paying attention, being attentive, and wanting attention. How “attention” changes when it is something to be received not given!
The concerns of the writer leading to the creation of a text which has its own life to lead…
OHAD: I was thinking of the notion/definition of art, as such, and here referencing the Conceptual Art’ preoccupation with who defines Art. The problematic of the artist defining what is art in comparison to the writer stat-ing or the relation between the writer and the state.
Perhaps then we can say that the space between writing and art practice is defined by a double failed negation. The Artist in his or her attempt to define what is art or who is an artist and the writer on his or her behalf to make any clear statement about writing.
VSK: Given what we have been discussing about writing in an art context, I enjoy this sense of “writer’s statement” in relation to the more familiar “artist’s statement” and the particularities/ peculiarities/ contexts of that form… that writing is somehow counter to the writer or the writer’s thoughts and intention- how that “counter – to” works itself out…
So if this ‘writer statement’ is impossible even as it is acted out then it suggests there might be other ways we can talk about this, which also returns to certain literary forms such as fiction, poems, fables.. we also turn to everyday experiences and anecdotes to try and find another way of speaking this, or to find an energy that might feed into our ‘writer statement’ even as it escapes it…
OHAD: I like very much you pointing out that the impossibility of a writer’ statement being acted out (and indeed it is reminiscent for me of the artist statement) can lead to or suggest other detours to talk about it… you mention literary forms… and I think visual forms can also function as such detours… perhaps that’s the dance/oscillation between the textual and the visual in my practice.
VSK: In The Writing Life Annie Dillard tells a story of a writer who would repeatedly stop writing and go out for a walk, come back home, then type up the whole story again, hoping that each time the impetus of the walk followed by typing enabled the writer to build up a momentum that continued the story for a few lines or pages. In this way the novel was written…
OHAD: Well, it took me a while to figure out some images and I played with some options.. At last I came to three different portraits of me. I wanted to stay away from any kind of theatricality due to Cohen’s low-key reference but eventually I couldn’t…it was stronger than me.
VSK: I like the ending – a real punch line! Interesting to think of punch line as art writing strategy…
OHAD: I would like to suggest the figure of the philosopher/thinker here as perhaps an essential link in order to make the bridge and complete the ‘picture’.