What Is Art? Art Is A Celebration of Life

While I was visiting my mother in the hospital last week, I stopped by the Starbucks coffee shop and ordered a Latte. As she was finishing my order, the little girl, with her Bootheel twang, asked: “Do you want the foam?”

I responded with a resounding “YES!” and I wondered to myself: “Why would anyone order a latte if they didn’t want the foam?”

And with that question, I began to analyze myself. While others prefer a straight cup of coffee, I also like the froth. Some might argue that the froth is not the nuts and bolts of life–it is not the real. Some might believe the froth to be a little flowery for them–perhaps they consider the froth to be a distraction from the essential.

According to an old Dutch Proverb, “The Froth Is Not the Beer.”

No one can argue with that bit of science. The froth is NOT the beer, but after careful consideration, I realize that I must stand with those who love the extra foam–the cherry on the top–the flowers along the road. In my opinion, the people who like the froth of life are probably the people who need art.

Just living is not enough… one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower. – Hans Christian Andersen

For several years, I taught art in schools, and in seeking to define art for my students, I used to tell them:

Art Is A Celebration of Life

Many will argue this point but I believe that poetry and the essence of painted works rise out of the froth that skitters along the surface of the scientific.

“some poems froth
and foam and rise…

out of my morning cup of
mist-sweetened coffee.”
― Sanober Khan, Turquoise Silence

Archibald MacLeish wrote his thoughts about poetry in his Ars Poetica. I think that I understand Ars Poetica, but the nature of art is that it is not essential to fully understand it. It is only important that we sense what art seeks to say.

Ars Poetica


A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit,

As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown—

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds.

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs,

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind—

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs.

A poem should be equal to:
Not true.

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea—

A poem should not mean
But be.

Again, I take my coffee with foam. I take my journey with flowers along the road. I take my life with a cherry on the top.

And from your froth we soon shall see
A second Venus rise. – Thomas Carew



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