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Monday, May 16, 2011

A Blessed Unrest

Michael Nye at the Missouri Review blog has posted and discussed the following quote by Martha Graham:

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."

Nye's post his reaction to this quote (which differed from mine, by the way), as well as comments on the artistic process and the many changing emotions and thought processes that accompany it. It's thoughtful inspiring writing. Well worth a read.


drew said...

I've loved and shared this quote with others for years -- though I never had the last few lines. My version ended at "Keep the channel open", which seems a bit more hopeful, but maybe a bit too hopeful?

I enjoyed Michael's perspective. Thanks for the link. I hope you'll share your interpretation too.

Jessica Goodfellow said...

Hi Drew,

Thanks for your comments. Even with the last few lines, I found this quote much more hopeful than Michael Nye did. I was encouraged to hear that I'm not the only person who is never ever pleased, is always dissatisfied, always restless. It made me feel as though that's the way it's supposed to be, the creative act, or the creative life perhaps, and I don't have to strive to be pleased or satisfied anymore, but accept this state and be at peace with it, as contradictory as that sounds.

Mari said...

Jessica, I love this quote, too, and have returned to it over the years. Erica Goss and I reprinted it on the cover page of our poem packet for our workshop yesterday. It seems to me that the poet/artist is perpetually longing for something that lies just out of reach, which inspires (or goads) us to keep making poems. The longing itself, that feeling of "blessed unrest," seems to be reason enough to keep at it. That, and the desire to make meaning, order, and beauty out of memory and experience.

Jessica Goodfellow said...

Mari, yes, longing is the right word. And a desire for order and meaning (and beauty too, which is often akin to order in the human mind, my mind anyway!)