“The aim of the poet and the poetry is finally to be of service, to ply the effort of the individual work into the larger work of the community as a whole.”
-Seamus Heaney, writing about Yeats
Though my personal affinity has always been for poetry, I would suggest that this quote could apply to anyone who works creatively. Touchstones has, more than anything, shown me the valuable service that creative people can provide. They can tell us who we are, where we are, where we’re going, and where we’ve been. That is what makes artists and, more importantly, art so valuable. Touchstones is not about individuals flexing their creative muscles or showboating their talents. Touchstones is about all of us, together, at once, saying “This is who we were” to whoever might care.
When we sit down to write, to sculpt, to paint, to draw, or to sing, we can do it with the intention of showing off our talents and exorcising that which torments us, but it’s much more satisfying to make something for somebody else. It’s much more worthwhile to invent an animal and then send it down a hallway full of strangers. Without the artist there, who will the animal brush up against and sniff? Who will run their fingers through its fur? Who will find that, if they listen, they can understand its every bark and howl? Who will it bite? Who will look into its eyes and, instead of seeing the artist lurking inside, waving for attention, see their own reflection but in a new way that is unexpected and sublime?
There are those artists that are so good at giving us what we need that we elevate them to celebrity status and call them heroes, electing them to speak for us and show us the way through the dark. But we all have at least one poem or story or painting that has, by itself, followed us home. We remember these far longer than the people who crafted them. When something is created, the creator is just an incidental part of the process. What really matters is the creation and what it does to the people who find it.
To me, Touchstones is a community of creative people working together to show us who we are. Touchstones is a place for art and writing that helps us identify and understand ourselves.
I want to sign off with a line from Josh Ritter’s ballad “Bone of Song.”
“I’ll remember your song - but I’ll forget your name.”