I've been wondering for the last couple days what constitutes intelligence and creativity. Meri and I were discussing this in terms of our jobs in advertising and marketing. I personally am not that into what I do (when I'm actually employed). It pays the bills and I like it fine, but don't love it. I am, however, able somehow to assimilate it into my work and think it has actually helped my poetry.
I've always been reluctant to say that advertising requires intelligence, or much anyway. While there are certainly smart people in the business, I'd say it's more about being clever than actually being intelligent. I've also made the argument that writing ad copy is not creative. It's more about being a technician of language, plying your trade and whatnot, to my mind, but most people in the biz thoroughly disagree with me.
Point being: what is intelligence, or for that matter, creativity? What makes art more creative than ad copy and what makes an intellectual more intelligent than a great marketer or ad person or whatever? Or am I just being a snob and sell-out, which would ultimately make me a total hypocrite?
For me, part of what makes my poetry creative and my ad copy is that I have to accomplish a certain goal with ad copy, convey whatever feeling the concept demands and, of course, get people to buy shit. With poetry, I have almost no aim whatsoever except to write a good poem. Well, that's not totally true, but you know what I mean. I have no material gain in mind. With poetry, I'm just trying to follow what the poems wants and be true to that.
That said, there is a kind of pointlessness to what I call creative work. Is that part of what makes something creative? The fact that you didn't have to do it to get ahead in life or make a buck? You just had to do it because you had to, or thought it would be fun and keeping all that energy bottled up would cause you such anxiety that it would literally kill your soul, explode it into a thousand little pieces across your inner landscape, and ultimately be the nuclear holocaust that annihilated your interior life? Or that's how it is for me, which, of course, is hyperbole. And not.
I could go on, but maybe it's time for others to speak.
Just reading through James Schuyler's Collected Poems and found this quote from Wallace Stevens: "The intelligence is part of the comedy of life."
And Schuyler himself says in The Morning of the Poem, "the truth, the absolute / Of feeling, of knowing what you know, that is / the poem"
Make of it what you will (or won't) regarding the above, or anything else.
I think Schuyler's point about knowing what you know being the poem is a good one. Sometimes, with regard to intelligence, I think poets are like baseball players. Baseball players are athletes, sure...but I'm thinking of John Kruk or Steve Balboni or Bob Horner or Cecil Fielder...real fatties. Still terrific players, but would you call them athletic? Prolly not. They certainly joked about not being athletes. What made them good, however, was knowing what they knew...being good at what they were good at...hitting a baseball. They couldn't track down a long fly ball, or steal a base, and my guess is that they couldn't easily transition into other sports...I'd be willing to bet I could take either of them in a game of one-on-one.
Sure there are poets out there who are excellent academics as well, clear concise prose writers, prolly excellent teachers, terrific spouses and parents, etc. But there are also poets out there who have trouble remembering to hydrate themselves properly (ahem...Justin...drink up sweetie), and all they can do right is write poems. So I'm not sure how that fits into the intelligent/creative copy writer/poet dichotomy except that they are very specific activities and one can be good at them and not be intelligent or creative with regard to anything else.
--Chris "Smart Water" Tonelli
I remember reading about the triarchic theory of intelligence in some undergrad class that I thought I was too smart for & it's stuck with me.
But it seems to me that the working definition of intelligence comes up short in attempting to apply it to both a job & an artistic vocation. Do we define intelligence as "good at performing tasks well," like hitting baseballs, pleasing clients with appropriate texts? Then we would have to assume the these tasks set out are those that are socially accepted to be useful, productive tasks. We don't praise the guy who is incredibly intelligent in tying floss into bows.
I agree with jm that there is a pointlessness to art, a willful pointlessness. In that respect it is not a task that intelligence necessarily makes one good at performing, it's a non-productive task. But then again art also (get out your neg-cap goggles for this one, friends) is not pointless. However off the radar poetry might be we participate in a community in which writing awesome poems commands respect & sometimes even a little bit of money. (Sometimes.) Unless one goes all Darger & never publicly shows ones work there is always at the very least a pursuit of social cache in art in addition to the need to satisfy one's own "pointless" aesthetic desires. So there is a task, a task that one can be particularly suited to & therefore intelligent at. Similarly, poetry typically does require a level of linguistic facility, or intelligence, because it retains its rhetorical elements in relation to its aesthetic ones.