The Individual – Combating the Norm

Ryerss Vintage Book Sale courtesy of Ryerss Museum and Library

In a society that continues to stress conformity, as opposed to individuality, the arts remain a bastion for individual accomplishment despite efforts to bring everyone in line with a certain school of writing or creativity. Individual thought spurs new ideas, challenges the status quo, questions authority and the flavor of the day. The mimeograph revolution in poetry of the 1960s, to the photocopy age of the 70s and 80s, and the current electronic revolution of the later part of the last century into this have shown poets are resourceful in combating the control of corporate and university publishers in providing poetry to the people. While there are some who condemn the wide range of poetry available today on the internet, one sobering fact remains, poets will not permit the individual nature of the art to be trampled upon.

andrew_wyeth courtesy of andrewwyeth websiteCharles Bukowski

A fine example of an individual remaining true to his art is found in the visual arts, in the person of Andrew Wyeth. Despite the post modernist movement, Wyeth stayed true to himself in his creative portraits and landscapes. Perhaps a lesson he learned from his father, a great illustrator, who attempted to blend into the French modernist movement. Then there is the poet Charles Bukowski, labeled as “the Poet Laureate of the low life.” A sometimes crude, harsh man, Bukowski could also be a gentle poet always writing in what is now known as the Meat Poetry style. He believed if the “big” magazines wouldn’t publish you, go to the “little ones.” Get your work out there for others to read. Today his philosophy lives on through the Outlaw Poets and he continues even in death to outsell the acclaimed poets of his generation.

federico_garcia_lorca1mohammed al-ajamiZhu Yufu


There is a reason dictators of the right and left imprison writers and artists. The written word and visual arts stimulate independent thought, challenge the senses, and encourage true diversity. The arts resist conformity. If one wants to write with passion or paint the common man or landscape, do it. If one wants to write about or paint obscure objects, do it. If a poet wants to write in form as opposed to free verse, do it. In this age when pressure mounts to conform and to lose individuality, we owe it to those who came before, to those who gave their lives for the art, to remain true to ourselves, following our own inspiration, no matter what anyone says.

g emil reutter– g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. (USA)

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