The Artist’s Duty

So it is the duty of the artist to discourage all traces of shame
To extend all boundaries
To fog them in right over the plate
To kill only what is ridiculous
To establish problem
To ignore solutions
To listen to no one
To omit nothing
To contradict everything
To generate the free brain
To bear no cross
To take part in no crucifixion
To tinkle a warning when mankind strays
To explode upon all parties
To wound deeper than the soldier
To heal this poor obstinate monkey once and for all

To verify the irrational
To exaggerate all things
To inhibit everyone
To lubricate each proportion
To experience only experience

To set a flame in the high air
To exclaim at the commonplace alone
To cause the unseen eyes to open

To admire only the absurd
To be concerned with every profession save his own
To raise a fortuitous stink on the boulevards of truth and beauty
To desire an electrifiable intercourse with a female alligator
To lift the flesh above the suffering
To forgive the beautiful its disconsolate deceit

To flash his vengeful badge at every abyss


It is the artist’s duty to be alive
To drag people into glittering occupations

To blush perpetually in gaping innocence
To drift happily through the ruined race-intelligence
To burrow beneath the subconscious
To defend the unreal at the cost of his reason
To obey each outrageous impulse
To commit his company to all enchantments.




Kenneth Patchen
Illustration: Atlanta Wiggs

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One Response to The Artist’s Duty

    1. what a magnificent poem and so triffic that IT has included Patchen’s work in the last three issues
      Patchen is still under-known and under-valued in UK I think and would be even less so but for the pioneering work of the poet/printer/pamphleteer/publisher Dennis Gould who anthologised edited and published Patchen’s ‘Love and War Poems’
      (Whisper and Shout 1968) which included Dennis’ intro and a fine essay on Patchen by Henry Miller
      this edition sold out and was reprinted in 1979 by The Aberdeen People’s Press
      this edition sold out too
      the beautiful love poems are all addressed to Patchen’s wife Miriam
      also worth seeking out are his two remarkable novels (tho that word is rather inadequate) ‘The Journal of Albion Moonlight’ and ‘The memoir of a shy pornographer’ both published by New Directions USA

      Comment by jeff cloves on 19 July, 2020 at 9:29 pm

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