Welcome to the Tea Interviews.
I devised this feature to edify fellow artists and to share that edification with you readers/participants. I've seldom met an artist, particularly a writer, who didn't tend to gab or spill opinions or offer musings on his/her own work and worldview. Therefore I'm tapping into this common tendency.
(Most of the questions are tailored toward the featured interviewee.)
Tea Interview with August Highland (editor of M.A.G.)
D: August, let's begin with the reputable Muse Apprentice Guild, which seems to be the shiniest aspect of your impressive repertoire. The M.A.G. has recently celebrated its first anniversary.
Please share some words about the M.A.G.'s conception and progress since.
AH: This interview comes at a good time. I just was informed that I have received my first Pushcart Prize nomination. I was nominated by the Journal for Contemporary American Poetry. Validations like this are very good for the soul.
The Muse Apprentice Guild (MAG) is perhaps one of the greatest sources of inspiration for me. It's also a way for me to regulate my creativity. Without the MAG I would never stop working. The MAG forces me to take some time out four times a year. Still I need to write everyday. In fact the poem that was nominated for the Pushcart Prize was written about 4 in the morning after working on the MAG for about 10 hours. The MAG has grown fast. It's as much a part of me as my own literary production. I write out of a serious dedication to the history of the western literary tradition.
The MAG is a reflection of this same dedication. In one year, the MAG became the largest and most widely read international literary quarterly on the internet with over 40 co-editors around the world. This is because I am committed to the WORLD of letters and not just to the writers of one literary movement, literary scene or even to the writers of my own country. I am serving all
writers. This is because all writers are serving the world and the muse. This is why I named the
quarterly the Muse Apprentice Guild. I see all writers as being a part of a guild and all of us being the apprentices of the muse.
D: You've developed a literarary concept called "Massive Production". Please explain.
AH: Massive production is in lieu of Mass-Production. Mass-production replicates an original work x-number of times. If you David go out and buy a book you are buying something that has been printed possibly millions of times. So you could throw the book away (or recycle it) after reading it and then go out and buy a duplicate. The book itself has no intrinsic and enduring value.
Massive production is the reverse of this. I don't write one book and reproduce it a thousand or ten thousand times. I write one thousand or ten thousand original books. Each one of my books are one-of-a-kind. This gives them intrinsic, enduring value. I am able to produce a massive output with the use of technology. Because of their intrinsic value, my books are sold for $350-$500 each. The owner of one of my works truly owns an original literary artwork. It's not disposable. There's not another one like it in the world.
D: You radiate a notable excitement for literature. I'm curious about your personal preferences.
Please name your favorite book(s)/author(s).
AH: My personal preferences are the classics. Homer, Virgil, Dante, Milton, Cervantes.
D: In regard to art in
general, what is your approach to aesthetics: what do you consider
"good" art - and what, if at all, is art's purpose?
D: (This relates to the last question.) Nature and Art: often polarized, often wed. But an antagonism is evident in much art. In the splendid "Decay Of Lying" (1889) Oscar Wilde asserts: "Art is our spirited protest, our gallant attempt to teach Nature her proper place...Nothing is more evident than that Nature hates Mind...She [art] is a veil, rather than a mirror...What Art reveals to us is Nature's lack of design, her curious crudities, her extraordinary monotony, her absolutely unfinished condition."
Of course, Wilde was a champion of the Decadent style, preferring artifice to allegedly dull and imperfect reality. I happen to lean toward artifice and stylism more so than realism, for instance. And I'm less inclined to appreciate a "natural" work over a human-centered work. I like photography depicting human beings much more than landscapes.
What are your thoughts on this and Wilde's previous words?
AH: Like you said, Wilde was making this statement in the context of his times. The context or cultural ethos during which he lived created an intellectual environment to which he was reacting.
It's an interesting statement to study from an historical perspective. But it doesn't have any
relevance today. The issue today is literature that is intended to be read meditatively or contemplatively versus literature whose surfaces and visuality is more important than the depths.
The issue today is reading versus scanning.
D: The great writer Joseph Conrad wrote this in his early story "An Outpost of Progress":
"Fear always remains. A man may destroy everything within himself, love and hate and disbelief, and even doubt; but as long as he clings to life he cannot destroy fear: the fear, subtle, indestructible, and terrible, that pervades his being; that tinges his thoughts; that lurks in his heart; that watches on his lips the struggle of his last breath."
Do you agree that a rather constant, pervasive fear haunts humanity? Can fear be dominated? What are you afraid of?
AH: Yes, fear is an integral part of human existence. This is simply because human existence is
finite and no one knows what happens after the cessation of human existence (death). Human existence is impermanent. This is what makes us afraid. I am afraid of impermanence and loss and death.
D: I'm quite vehemently opposed to collectivism, favoring individualism over "the group". Of course, cooperation and concerted projects are good things. But general collectivism, especially as condoned by a so-called "enlightened" or "politically correct" State, easily yields dehumanizing results: repressed speech/opinion, destructive buzz words, intolerant "tolerance", and sometimes persecution and even liquidation.
I see history as Humankind's increasing humanness constantly under pressure to succumb to dehumanization (herdism, hollow art, war, almighty States).
What have you to say about this?
AH: There has always been this polarity: collectivity versus autonomy. It's an inescapable dichotomy that is part of being social creatures. There is always a tension between oneness and
separateness. And there is always a shifting that takes place along the continuum of autocracy
On the surface of things it looks like we are moving toward dehumanization and collectivism. I believe however that directly beneath the surface is a very powerful global movement toward a more in-the-center world view which is "inter-dependence".
D: I'm quite fixated on mortality and how the human foreknowledge of it plays with our worldviews, art, and mental health. What are your thoughts on mortality?
AH: I am afraid of mortality and loss and change and impermanence. I believe that if I were to be completely at one with this I would not be a writer. I think that I produce work in order to counter the temporality of my life.
D: You've recently had an honorable recognition: your work presented at the Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association (PAMLA) 2003 convention.
Please tell us about this splendid opportunity, how it came about, what is being
AH: A paper about my work was presented at PAMLA in the "Literature and Ethics" panel by Professor Chad Tew who teaches New Media Communications. I have just had an abstract for a paper accepted by the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association PCA/ACA Conference in the "Literature and Visual Arts" panel. I will deliver a paper about my Alphanumeric Labs project. I have just received news that a PhD candidate in Modern Literature is devoting a chapter of his dissertation to my work and also that my work has been added to another syllabus at Denver University.
These things come about daily. It's not a miracle however. I have been writing for 30 years. This
recognition is only the result of hard work and discipline. Hard work and discipline is everything.
D: Better than Charlie's Angels, Wonder Woman, Princess Leia, and even the foxy Emma Peel (from Britain's "Avengers") are the Muses. My two favorite Muses are Erato (love poetry) and Melpomene (the "Songstress" of tragedy).
Care to name your favorite(s)?
AH: My favorite Muses are the Powerpuff Girls.
D: Any brand-new ideas or projects on your mind or in the works?
AH: Yes. I am touring Europe in 2004 presenting exhibitions/installations of my visual works with
sound and video artists.
I have recently developed two new genres which I will be creating projects for beginning in 2004.
D: August, I respect your worthy endeavors, your energy and drive, and particularly the Muse Apprentice Guild. I'm sure more delightful accomplishments are ahead.
I wish your blessings on your path.
Any closing words for readers/fans?
AH: If you are an emerging writer, send me your work. If you live in San Diego and want to become involved in the MAG, contact me. If you have proposals for developing a professional relationship with me, contact me. I have many projects, both literary and visual, and one man cannot do it all. So, share a good thing and spread the word.
the muse apprentice guild
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