Last spring in our advanced poetry workshop, Chad Sweeney told us “ ‘pretty’ isn’t the point anymore.” He was, no doubt, talking about poetry. This phrase has stuck with me, though, and I think it applies to life in general just as much as it does to poetry on the page (I make the distinction “on the page,” because life should be poetry. If it isn’t, for you, that is sad—start pumping yourself full of poets like Whitman and Dickinson and Seuss and Kasischke and Powell and Stern immediately).
Pretty is just so empty (pardon all the italics, and the asides. I just feel very emphatic tonight, apparently). For me, pretty and beautiful are vastly different. Something about beauty brings pain along with it in its back pocket. A past. Sometimes, when I think of words, they have color associations in my mind (didn’t you know, I can read your word’s aura…for a small fee, of course)—“pretty” being almost translucent and sickeningly pastel, pink or yellow. “Beauty” is much darker—probably indigo. Indigo fascinates me to no end—I think I carry it inside me somewhere, maybe lining my bones instead of marrow. Pretty giggles, while Beauty weeps.
Maybe you don’t feel exactly the same as I do, but you have to at least admit that there’s a distinction. I think part of the reason why I’m so disenchanted and angry lately is because I can’t seem to escape pretty. It’s everywhere. And I’m not saying it’s everywhere but here, with me—oh yes, it’s right over there, in my bathroom, sitting on my (aptly named) vanity, ready for me to put all of it on tomorrow.
Maybe my problem, my dissatisfaction, is that I just want more. I don’t want little bows tied on the end of things, all resolved and cute and rainbow rainbow rainbow! (sorry, Elizabeth Bishop, I honestly don’t know where that came from).
I remember a guy from high school with the most incredible singing voice you will ever hear. Once, we were talking to each other at a rehearsal, standing in a small hallway leading into the school’s auditorium. In such a small space, his voice, even just speaking, was so resonant it seemed to realign the magnetic orbit of every atom in my body.
That’s what I want from the world.