MYTHBUSTER: you don’t have to be dangerous to be important

Or else I’m screwed.

I believe you don’t have to be dangerous to be important for other reasons, too. This post is going to be short and to the point. Paul Corman-Roberts has just started another monthly reading series in San Francisco: Bitchez Brew. I spoke with him a little bit recently about “the SF lit scene”—as people are whispering to one another—from here to NY and back, it seems.

The truth is, we don’t have a mission statement. And we don’t have a vision. But we are a community. Paul asked, “How do we make our group dangerous?” And I know what he means. It used to be that one needed venom in his pen if he were to make a difference, to step up to the microphone and literarily spit all over it if one were to wake people up from their comfortable slumberings.

To be dangerous is to be toxic, nuclear—to be so potent that exposure could cause death, mental illness, or other serious harm*; it is the poet in the room who nobody wants to talk to but everyone ogles from their deep-rooted desires to be genius, on the edge, to walk the line between FINGER ON THE PULSE and I DON’T KNOW IF I CAN KEEP BREATHING AND DON’T KNOW IF I CARE.

But what makes a group dangerous? With all the inevitable comparisons to those guys in that gallery half a century ago, I wonder if anyone considered them to be dangerous or just freakishly weird, slovenly, and occasionally frightening.

Let’s consider this: in order to be subversive now you have to forego showers and underpants, avoid smiling at all costs, betray your friends, and never create a single thing—just sit in the same place for 14 days without moving. It will be quite the statement.

Now consider this: our elders are a lot smarter than their elders were, or at least a lot more … hip (I shudder to refer to my parents this way but you know what I mean: they smoke weed and understand that just because they don’t understand something doesn’t mean it’s outrageous, offensive, and completely confusing, as their parents did. They are open-minded.).

And this: we are mainstream, baby. Look at how many of us there are! I can’t even keep track and it’s all I do. I once read some article that proclaimed our generation would produce a vast volume of artwork—that there would be incomparably more artists than ever before, but that the art would not be as … significant or dangerous.

But I want to switch gears. I’m not interested in teetering off the edge, thank you. Mine is an investment in fertility. Let’s produce work and leave the deeming of significance to other people. Any voice like any road that is followed long enough will eventually lead to a dead end. At this dead end is a wall and a small box of cans and in these cans are different colors of paint. Write on, my friends. Must we use bullhorns and shout from rooftops to be significant, or just loud?

What do we want to do with our writing? To wake people up? Is that not what has happened to us? Are we not the woken? Then let us sing! And wake, dear people, if our voices do sweetly stir you.

Paul Corman-Roberts

Rebekah Edwards

Kathleen Wood

Meg Day

Jonathan Hirsch

Valerie Chavez

* Exposure to the SF Lit Scene right now might cause productivity, inspiration, and a larger network of similarly-minded … friends. Be prolific. Send money here.