i’m thinking tonight about masterpieces. michelangelo looked at the sixtine chapel and saw; nothing to preserve. virgil wanted his aenid burned and forgotten; only to be saved at the behest of an emperor who thought it flattery. kafka instructed his friend to burn everything he’d ever written - too personal was it, too unfinished.
they were ignored.
instead, their work was taken and held and published and thrown to be gawked at. instead, an emperor, a pope, a friend, took from within the cavities of them their choices; their art.
tumblr rolls out post+. twitter rolls out tip jars. youtube takes half of what creators earn. on social media, there is a ko-fi or a patreon and a polished face in every bio. i show my poems to my mother and she asks if I will publish them before she says anything else. emily dickinson instructed her sister to burn her poetry.
her sister did not listen.
we are a community, says tumblr, we should give back to creators. my last poem had 50 notes. six of those were reblogs that weren’t mine. i lie in bed at 2am and stare at my bright phone screen and the way netflix’s library grows thinner and thinner. the first ad on tumblr that i can reblog is for amazon. amazon takes more than half of what authors earn.
kafka’s friend took barely finished work and hammered it into structure. he is the only reason we know of him.
my father wrote a book and a play when I was barely big enough to reach his knees. when i try to talk to him about writing, he shrugs.
no one wanted to publish it, he says. so i don’t write anymore.
i am filled with poems I have never published, books I haven’t written. There are little snippets of them scattered throughout my life. I link to my ko-fi on my tumblr.
asked capitalism of the artist: what is art, if not for consumption? who does art benefit, if it is not consumed? why create at all if you do not market it? who are you, frothing at the mouth about someone publishing someone else’s poems? who are you to hate your magnum opus? what is art, if not in relation to its reception? if no one sees it, how is it art?
said the artist, baring their teeth: it’s mine.
Why do they never mention capitalism as the problem?