Madeleine L’Engle, reminiscing over her school years and the development of her craft in A Circle of Quiet, wrote:
Looking through some old journals, I came across several [poems]. There was one, notable for its arrogance, if nothing else:
We lived on 82nd Street, and the Metropolitan Museum was my short cut to Central Park. I wrote:
I go into the museum
and look at all the pictures on the walls.
Instead of feeling my own insignificance
I want to go straight home and paint.
A great painting, or symphony, or play, doesn’t diminish us, but enlarges us, and we, too, want to make our own cry of affirmation to the power of creation behind the universe. This surge of creativity has nothing to do with competition, or degree of talent. When I hear a superb pianist, I can’t wait to get to my own piano, and I play about as well now as I did when I was ten. A great novel, rather than discouraging me, simply makes me want to write. This response on the part of any artist is the need to make incarnate the new awareness we have been granted through the genius of someone else.
I used the word ‘arrogant’ about those verses. I take it back. I don’t think it’s arrogance at all. It’s beauty crying out for more beauty.
Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet
After reading this, I called my artist sister and read it to her over the phone. And, of course, she knew exactly what L’Engle was talking about, as I do in my own way–as we all do in our personal and unique expressions of art. But she can go to the Met any time she pleases… 😉