Will You Burn This For Me?

Love One Another By Zelda Fitzgerald

I’ve been thinking about the impermanence of art as marked by its materials, whether it be composed on paper, canvas, or any medium in between.

Sappho, a famous Ancient Greek poet, left us with many fragments as the papyrus used to contain her poetry was torn or damaged in several places, leaving up with pieces of stanzas, forever marking how we as readers interact with her art.

Then, several thousands of years later, we come into contact with writers like Zelda Fitzgerald — a talented writer and a painter, her wide-expansing talents unrecognized even to this day. She was overshadowed by her husband F. Scott Fitzgerald and her first and last novel Save Me The Waltz fell through the cracks, becoming out-of-print as the years passed. There’s so much more to cover on her history, but that’s enough for another post entirely.

What I mean to say is this: most of Zelda’s paintings were destroyed by her jealous sister and others were lost with the advent of time.

I guess I’ve been considering how time fragments memories and art as the materials we utilize to create and transcribe our art are so easily damaged, and then in other cases, artists sometimes ask others to destroy their art for them.

In the case of ignorance, millions of records were damaged in the 2008 Universal Studios Fire. (See post on Art Corner page for more info.)

Yet again, in the case of a decisive will, sometimes writers ask someone they love to burn their words for them so the public will never be able to see them again. Emily Dickinson asked her sister Lavinia to burn a chest full of her fascicles and I still think about how Lavinia did what she asked her to do and burned all those poems to this day.

I still think about what it means to lose art. And I still wonder at the distance between recovery and loss in relation to art. Because those paintings and poems are gone to us now and we will never be able to recover them; they smoldered and all we are left with now is these fragments of memory.

A wife.

A woman.

A painter.

A question.

Will you burn this for me?

A poet.

Some words on a crumbling page.

And a memory of loss sometimes captured on the page or in the paint.

I don’t think I understand the connection between recovery and loss yet.

And some part of me thinks I never will.

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