Over at The Pacific Standard, Noah Davis interviews Julie Keefe, the “Creative Laureate” of Portland. What is a Creative Laureate? Well, it’s someone who, and I quote, “starts the conversation,” “advocates,” “facilitates,” and, perhaps, “brings something substantial to the position.” Davis asks Keefe if the United States could use a Creative Laureate. Keefe:
Absolutely…We need to have somebody who is honestly talking about why it’s important for our society to embrace creativity going forward. I went to China last month. Go to China and you’ll see why we need to embrace creativity. They are bringing it back like gangbusters over there.
I have been reading Vernon Scannell recently–an often drunk and wife-beating boxer, broken man, and gifted poet. He had this to say in his journals on teaching creative writing: “Young poets don’t want criticism…They want to bask in your silent admiration or perhaps purr softly as you stammer out superlatives.” Scannell, who suffered through an abusive childhood, the Second World War, and his own demons, was a patient and careful teacher, but he was not one to give praise or “advocate” where no praise or advocation was due.
You know what would help creativity in America? More people who–and I guess I need to specify, metaphorically, in case some creative professionals don’t catch this–skin artists alive. Let’s have more discouragement, more obstacles, fewer tedious conversations and more fiery ones, and send those who have the ambition and talent to write and paint to train with folks who won’t lie but give them the sort of truth that makes a healing cut.