The Portland Writer

Freelance Writer | Storyteller | SEO Copywriter | Ghostwriter | Speaker and Coach


The Portland Writer - Freelance Writer | Storyteller | SEO Copywriter | Ghostwriter | Speaker and Coach

How Dare James Franco be a Poet?

James Franco, Herbert White, Poet, NY TImes, The Guardian

. . . why it is that artists who are vastly successful in one genre feel the need to dabble in another.

– David Orr, NY Times Sunday Book Review

In last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, David Orr posed this question. Orr is not the first nor will he be the last person to pose such a banal question and he doesn’t wholly hate on Franco, instead pointing out that there has been and could be a worse artist trying to cross-over into non-native territory, than Franco. But it’s just the act of asking this question, as if it were to hold in it, in any way, a legitimate value whatsoever — to me, is absurd.

I loathe this question, mainly because it’s so utterly arrogant that it’s ridiculous.

Artists Express

It’s what we do. Any artist or anyone who’s ever known anyone involved in any art form, knows that most artists (writers and poets included) have more than one outlet of expression. For that matter, anyone who has watched a small child for any length of time, as he or she is first exploring the world and learning to express themselves, will find the very same thing — the need to play in different realms. None of us is one-dimensional — artist or not — the need to explore more than one creative outlet is quite simply, human.

That’s why it’s so frustrating, this one-dimensional expectation people have of artists. Always wanting them to stay in just one lane of expression and to keep regurgitating that thing that first drew them to the artist. If an artist chooses to play in another genre or to grow beyond where their audience first found them – then they’re subject to punishment for their insolence, as Bob Dylan was when he decided to plug-in.

Franco was a poet before he became an actor, just as Kanye was an art major before he became a rapper. Joni Mitchell grew up doing art and dance and poetry before transitioning those experiences into music and as Orr notes, Steve Martin, though a talented comedian and actor, plays a mean banjo — (and I’ll add) he’s also a helluva playwright. These artists may have found their first fame elsewhere, but it doesn’t negate the fact that they have something more to say and that they feel a different medium may help them express it better.

Stay in your box

And yet, Orr’s question is not rare. To his credit, Orr is in fact, one of the kinder reviewers of Franco’s work and he points out some of what I’ve witnessed among writers I know — a kind of sour grapes that Franco’s published and they’re not. That Franco getting reviewed and they’re not. As if one had anything to do with the other.

For the under-appreciated poet, who may never be traditionally published or reviewed, it’s easy to cut Franco’s work down to that of overprivileged celebrity, “only being published because he’s famous.” But as Orr points out, if he wasn’t, it wouldn’t mean your book of poems would take his spot — it wouldn’t — not unless you could prove your salability to the publisher. (Which, BTW, you could do sans the celebrity, by taking care to cultivate your author platform and grow your following — as Franco has on Twitter — though maybe not to his level. But that’s a-whole-other post.) The truth is — poetry books don’t sell and the audience for poetry books is not large.

No, a poet, has to love it just for the sake of doing it — not for the dreams of grandeur, the hope of traditional publication, or the fantasy of hitting it big and making millions. This is NOT the dream of a poet, for we are all told, from a very young age, that there is no money in poetry.

Kicking down doors

So, if James Franco wants to express himself through poetry, who does it hurt? In reality — no one. As Orr points out, it may even expose a new audience to the likes of poetry. And though Orr, it seems, is not a fan of the modern-stream-of-consciousness style of poetry Franco employs (the kind that references the modern experience and isn’t wrapped in metaphor and dressed up in nature), I think that it is this very relatable form that will do exactly that — reach and possibly inspire the next generation of would-be poets.

To me the hallowed halls of poetry, literature and the New York Times, for that matter, are all old guard — mostly played out, with their elitist, classist past-their-best-by-date views. We live in a time where, like it or not, these old Titans are crumbling and artists now face both the loss of a dream of a potential foothold on being paid and marketed by the big boys for their work and the possibility (if they’ve got the hustle) of reaching a wider audience, directly, while retaining a more pure artistic vision.

Maybe Franco and Kanye represent this more than anything else – both prolific and famous, unsatisfied playing in just the one lane they’ve been given, they’ll chance your boos and overly harsh literati criticisms and ignore the advice of their publicists, on the chance to go artistically where they want to, to create and explore those things they want most — whether we all like it or not. To me, there is no truer artist than those who are unafraid to upset expectations, to anger their fans or to dare to go somewhere that’s considered taboo for them — to risk it all for their art.

It’s easy to put it on the line, when you have nothing — harder to buck the system when you’re comfortable. But also, if you can’t do it when you’re a nobody (because nobody cares) it has to be so disheartening to have made it and then be told you can’t do it now, either.

Are you talking to me?

I like James Franco’s book of poems, Directing Herbert White, not just because the poems feel raw and accessible and somehow representative of the kind of satisfied dissatisfaction most of this country seems to be feeling these days but also because Franco feels imperfect and at the same time acutely aware of those imperfections, he is self-deprecating and accessible in a way stars of the past have not been and the book itself reads as if it were constructed in such a laissez-faire way, that it ends up feeling genuinely, as if we are there with him at day’s end, as he is deconstructing the absurdity of his art, his life, his days, and his celebrity.

If you don’t like James Franco or his poetry or you feel some sort of issue with the fact he is writing and publishing poetry — then, I put to you that you should simply avoid reading it. But as with any artist, don’t waste our time questioning his right to do it.

Who are we to decide how an artist expresses him or herself? Who are we to ask, “How Dare James Franco be a Poet?”

James Franco’s writing poetry — what are you doing? Let me know in the comments below.

Finding Portland, Again

As a writer, a lot of what I bring is shaped by all I do and see and experience. That’s one of the reasons this site is called The Portland Writer — because no matter who I write for or where in the world they are located, they’re getting the benefit of working with a writer who lives in Portland.

Writing in Portland

The city I live in is a beautiful tapestry of quirky, eco-friendly, open-minded, laid back, conscientious, whole slow food lovin’, tattoo bearing, beard flaunting, beer drinking, bicycling, full-on personality, that it is simply an inescapable part of every single one of us that make our home here.

But like any long-term relationship, we sometimes grows weary of what we have and we daydream about what else might be out there for us. (France? whatcha doin’ over there?)

In the end though, when it’s real love, it takes very little to rekindle that spark.

Finding Portland

And though, this video, from Uncage the Soul Video Production, is the result of 51 days of work and 300,000+ still photographs, in which it took an average of 3.8 hours to make each second of film — it takes less than 4 minutes of your time to watch and enjoy all that effort.

Four minutes in which, if you live here, to fall right back into “madly in love” with Portland. It’s also four minutes in which, if you don’t live here, you’ll find yourself wondering why that is.

Portland Writers: The Portland Writer Expands

As we wrap the close of 2013 here at The Portland Writer, it’s only natural to take some time to reflect. Something I had a chance to do a bit more of in the last weeks of December on our first vacation in 3 years!

Building a Copywriting Business from Scratch

Building a business of your own from the ground up takes a lot of drive, unwavering work ethic and a clear vision for what you’d one day like it to become. This all becomes harder, when you do it the way I did, freshly laid-off, newly engaged, during a recession, with no start-up funds and a new baby on the way. (Really? Phew!)

Along the way there have been plenty of mistakes, stress, face palms, tears and hair pulling but there has also been loads of fun, constant learning, plenty of great new clients, new friends and connections and more fulfillment than I can ever put into words.

Thank You for Making the The Portland Writer a Success!

Most of all, there’s the satisfaction of providing my very best, every step along the way and that makes me proud. I could not have done it without all of you (my clients, supporters, mentors, the Portland writing community and my dear family and friends.) For the last six years, YOU have believed in my work enough to continually work with me, project after project and to refer your friends to me. My clients are some of the best and most loyal on the planet and for that I am truly grateful and humbled by your trust and continued support.

But a special thank you also goes out to my husband, Todd, who has juggled it all in the last few years, taking on the primary household duties and care of our young son, so that I could grow this business and give my very best to all of you.


A Change is on the Horizon

This September marked a milestone in the life of our family — our son (no, he’s not the monkey pictured above) started school for the first time, as an exuberant and eager kindergartener. His transition has closed one chapter in both our lives and in the business. With our little one in school, Todd is now free to join me in the business, offering his copywriting skills and writing ability, allowing us to take on even more clients in the coming year.

The Portland Writer accepting new clients in 2014

We’re excited about the expansion and what 2014 will mean for our family, our business and our clients. If you have friends or family that you think could benefit from our words, please feel free to pass along our name or our site for referral — we now have room in the schedule.

copywriting special discount

Refer-A-Friend 2014 New Year’s Special: *Now through February 15th, 2014, existing clients who refer a friend will receive a 10% discount off the next project with The Portland Writer and their newly referred client friends will receive $25 off their first project order.

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