There is a poem by Denise Levertov, “The Secret,” that addresses so many of the anxieties and hang ups that both artists and potential audiences have about art.
I feel like the poem should be handed out at performances, museum galleries, literature classes, intro to [insert arts discipline] classes in order to reassure people of their ability to have an authentic and valid experience.
You can read the full text for yourself, but I wanted to share some excerpts.
“The Secret” Denise Levertov
Two girls discover
the secret of life
in a sudden line of
I who don’t know the
..I love them
for finding what
I can’t find,
and for loving me
for the line I wrote,
and for forgetting it
a thousand times, till death
finds them, they may
discover it again, in other
A few lines later she says she loves the girls for assuming there is a secret and for looking for it. Often the fear associated with a work is that there is a secret but we won’t be able to discover it and be subject derision by those who have. While Levertov acknowledges the accomplishment in the discovery, she finds the most joy in the fact they made the effort to even look.
While it can be disconcerting for creators to have people misinterpret the intent of their work, there should be at a small concession of gratitude, especially in these days, that people made an effort to find and understand it.
Perhaps the sentiment in the poem arts people will love best is that you should revisit a work many times over your life in order to discover it anew.
Even if you don’t hand it out to people who participate in your events, you might post a copy of the poem near your workspace–and revisit it many times yourself–to remind you how people often experience what you do.