On John Lee Clark’s Essay “Tactile Art”

In the October 2019 issue of Poetry Magazine, essayist John Lee Clark rights about the nature of tactile art from the blind perspective. It was an illuminating piece that had me thinking long after I’d put down the journal. Essentially, he writes about what’s important in a tactile art piece to a blind person and what elements are unnecessary (but often included because our culture thinks as sighted beings). For example, he talks about the importance of heft. Imagine a plastic toy tank. For sighted persons, the visual experience is enough to convey the ominous, dangerous menace a tank represents. But for a blind person, the weight of that light plastic toy is more important and conveys none of the same menace. If you get a chance to read Clark’s poignant essay, I recommend it.

The Concentration of Art

It has come to my attention that quick hits and “sudden bursts of inspiration” will not alone create great art. Because good art, by its inherent nature, is a focusing of the mind, in which we, the artist, dwell with our subject for extended periods, dredging its depths. It is a process that requires concentration and long doses of it.

I have been working steadily on the novel and have entered a strange loop within the first six chapters in which I have been constantly discovering more material that needs to be inserted here and there. It’s a very enriching and proactive experience, and I feel like my attitude around pace is very healthy, for the work and myself. That attitude is this: I will work steadily every day, but I will not be concerned with page or word counts, only with quality and progress. It seems to be paying off.

In thinking about this idea of pace, I was struck with the nature of pace when I was writing fiction for undergraduate and graduate work. Then, it felt like page count was the all-encompassing necessity. I think perhaps, because I’ve written so many pages of fiction at this point, fifty pages more or less have much less of an effect on me. What good is fifty pages if it’s crap? Now, I’ll spend an hour on a few paragraphs sometimes, just because that’s what that moment of creation requests. It’s almost as if I am outside of time. Which, of course, is ridiculous.