Explain Yourself!


On the spectrum of things I hate, ranging from downright despicable to death is better than dealing with this, it goes like this:

vacuum the house

eat a lychee nut

go to church

write an artist’s statement

shake hands with George Bush and/or Dick Cheney

touch a spider

Honestly, you’d have to threaten me with a spider to get me to touch a spider. As for Bush and Cheney, they surely don’t like me, either. Alas.

Then there’s the artist’s statement. Evidently, I can write a hundred page play, no problemo! But ask me to write my “artist’s statement” in five hundred words or less and I got nothing. I’ve been working on applications for writers’ residencies all day. I know I am not the first or the last writer who hates these things. I’ve spent hours on this–hours I could have spent on, oh I don’t know, my actual writing.

But whereas spiders are just pure evil, artist’s statements are more of the necessary kind. So I will endeavor to persevere on this application for a writer’s residency instead of working on a play or a poem. In the meantime I offer my ars poetica, from a few years ago, my first attempt at my explanation of myself as an artist. I read it from time to time, just to remind myself.


Public Domain


For instance nothing in this world

is single

not me making the poem or you

reading it.


You know what poetry is to me,

you said

God made a rabbit

set it in the grass,

Devil made a popgun

shot him in the ass

and goddamn if you don’t laugh.


It’s a poem, after all,

you’re supposed to.


Someone said of you once:

you are an apple unpicked

on the highest branch where harvesters

couldn’t reach you


up there where

the winds of heaven mix forever

with a sweet emotion

a place you and I converge

thee mine, I thine

and I ask you take my hand, take this, my body,


and years ago and years from now

when any of us true in love but truly writes,

it won’t matter if it’s Sappho or Jesus,

Shelley or Shakespeare or the man in a white apron

packing salt around a fresh leg of pork

for a six month cure in the cooler.


The words came from you,

they belong to you.

-Arlitia Jones

7 Comments on “Explain Yourself!

  1. WOW! AWEsOME! As for an artist statement– today I looked up ALice Waters and ALice Walker quotes– stole them and applied them to my art and put them in my business plan. MUA HA HA HA HAH! Steal steal steal HA HA HA HA HA!


  2. Hey Arlitia! Very funny list you’ve got there. I’m not certain the spider is scarier than the Bush/Cheney duo though. . . And about writing that artist statement, have you seen the book called WRITING THE ARTIST STATEMENT by Ariane Goodwin? It’s pretty good. If you can’t find it, I could mail you my copy.


    • Oh, I did not know about that book! I will definitely check it out.
      Why is it so hard, Anne? I just hate it! Everything sounds pretentious or silly or irrelevant to what we really do as artist. Maybe that’s it… I just want to “do”… I don’t want to be talking about doing. ???


      • I know just what you mean. It’s hard because it’s about 180 out from what we do most of the time! It’s like magic but we have to speak of it in terms of “product” and “productivity.” (Groan.) And it’s also funny about that headline – it shows up perfectly normal on my screen (MAC), no slash at all!


  3. btw, I apologize for the weird headline…on my monitor it says Explain Yours/elf! It won’t let me put a return in there for some reason. So really, elf, you don’t have to pour your heart out to me.


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