William C. Blome
When you’re sitting nude upstairs in a brown clapboard house that stands unattached on this horse farm property just short of eight miles outside Bowman, and your wooden chair is in front of a bedroom window’s billowing curtains blowing in on you such that each half of the curtains brushes one of your breasts and in time will make you wet down there, and you’re holding a pair of binoculars up to your eyes and adjusting the focus to clearly see a landscapist outside by his easel, his palette and paints at the ready, a bandanna-scarfed artist standing in bright sunshine, maybe a quarter of a mile directly ahead of you—but still, having recognized all of that, the probability is that you are nothing like an all-knowing witness to this particular painter’s quandary, for try as he’s been trying now for hours to paint any or all of the horses grazing peacefully behind his sturdy easel, Dick Hyde, artist-owner of this North Dakota hacienda, has not been able to paint a single horse into his picture.
Oh, you’ve probably noticed that he can lightly charcoal-sketch ponies aplenty on his rectangular canvas, and that he has no apparent problem both sketching and painting the prairie, the distant hills, the horizon line or the rotund clouds in a rich azure sky, but something there is somewhere this day that prevents Dick Hyde’s hand from painting so much as a hoof, or a tail, or a mane or an eyeball.
When it has taken quite some time of observing him through your field glasses, and when you’ve become genuinely moved by what you sense is his puzzling predicament (you think to yourself, maybe even his agony), then you descend the stairs, you open the back door and you walk over to the barn. You grab a shovel and a bucket, you move into a stall and scoop up some fresh horse manure. Then you fold a horse blanket over your arm, and last, you feather some hay between the folds of the blanket, for you have obviously concluded that all of these things are de rigueur practically anywhere domestic horses live.
Now you’re carrying your items out toward the depressed Dick Hyde, and your reasoning has naturally run that if only he can breathe deeply and smell horse; can himself chew and swallow that which horse eagerly eats; and be grateful to be cloaked in that which positively gives horse warmth, then there will be nothing on earth to stop Dick Hyde from painting one or many or too many horses onto his canvas. Excitement builds inside you as you go along your way. It becomes an excitement strong enough to trigger recollection of (of all things) the first time you ever watched saucers being shattered by pistol shooters at the State Fair in Minot, and your soft body jiggles this way and that as you awkwardly skip and run now, ‘cross tall grass and powdery dirt, to close the distance between your naked self and Dick Hyde, rancher-artist.
“Horse” is about making the essence of something as or more explicit than its meaning. Meaning is contemporary Western art’s most overrated element, massively so.
Given one more century of interpretation and performance, the music of Allan Pettersson (1911-1980) will be recognized as the finest written in the 20th century. In the rear view sound chamber of that epoch, I can discern the thumb of Pettersson’s art pointing down toward its closest competitors, the four other fingers of the century’s “classical” hand: Mahler, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and Stravinsky. But of particular importance here, Pettersson stated my credo as an artist of the new century when he said, “The music forming my work is my own life, its blessings, its curses: in order to rediscover the song once sung by the soul.”
For me, the initial task of creative writing is a highly public act. Airports, train stations, food courts, buses: these be my arenas, my studies, my bordellos. These are the places I park my ass in hope the muse will attend me well, will parade faces and bodies before my ballpoint, will, in short, offer up stories and poems. Editing, however, is a private, lonely, and masturbatory affair.