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Posted May 27, 2011
Peter Clothier is alarmingly wise, committed, honest, and vibrant an artist. His passion in life is writing: his passion has positively affected more artists than is calculable. Though he has been a teacher and administrator of some of our more important art institutions - be they schools or journals or lecture circuits - he is first and foremost a poet. Yes, he has written several books of poetry and that is one of the many tangents he addresses in this book of collected essays from the past thirty years, a book fully titled PERSIST IN PRAISE OF THE CREATIVE SPIRIT IN A WORLD GONE MAD WITH COMMERCE: he reflects on the fact that though poetry is not a 'commercially viable' means of life, it is an obligation to the creative spirit to continue to write.
Not that this book is about poetry and the act of writing poetry (though every essay in this sensitive collection could be viewed as poetic), but that is a starting point for Clothier. What his life of observation and meditation has allowed him to discover is the need for the creative spirit process to be free from the influence of the judgment of critics, those who would advise against careers that do not assure financial independence, and those blithe naysayers that consider an artist of any form successful only if he/she becomes famous and wealthy. Clothier admits that much of his success as an influence on artists, be they writers, poets, painters, film makers, photographers, sculptors or what other means of releasing the creative spirit, comes from his devotion to meditation. Breathing, cleansing the mind to focus and to realize not only the importance of the gift of being creative but also the personal obligation to pursue that spirit of creativity despite the degree of applause from the world at large or those to whom success is judged by superficial standards.
'Breathing out, breathing in...When you think of it, this in itself is nothing more than inspiration. That done, I have several mental strategies I deploy to get back into the process of creation. Because that's what it's about: creative work is never about saying something. It's about process. It's a dance, an interaction with medium, no matter what your medium might be: words, paint, clay, song, or musical notes.' Eloquent thoughts simply stated are what fill the pages of this fine book. Clothier touches on the growing plague of commerce and its effect on artists, on criticism as evaluated by his own noted career as an art critic, allowing (no, insisting) on conquering the ability to say 'no' that allows artists to remain focused on the obligation of nurturing the creative spirit, on discipline and its importance in sifting out the detritus of living to allow the flow of creativity, a beautiful and brief space called 'What to say when there's nothing to say' that places the reader back in touch with life experiences from the distant and immediate past denying that there is no such thing as having nothing to say, the possible demise of books and even visual art in the age of Internet communication that can be either salacious and wasteful or an open window to discovering a higher level of creativity. And that is only a sampling of the thoughts that 'dance' through this book.
PERSIST is balm for the artists struggling with the search for a credo to continue what their spirit requires they do - create.