Advocate for craft

Luke Hankins

I like that Wipf and Stock Publishers take a chance on little things that might not otherwise see the light of day, and I particularly like how they are happy to publish books of reviews and essays. Luke Hankins is a (relatively) young writer and poet working in the, let’s say, reasonably narrow field of modern poetry criticism from a spiritual angle, and his book The Work of Creation is a book of prose, following on from other books of poetry. He is a perceptive critic of poetry as well as a keen observer of other art forms and the art-making process. I like his scepticism about some modern art works, including those of Robert Rauschenberg and John Cage, that are purported to make conversation with the art canon. As he rightly says, any old blank surface can do that, and it is not merely the idea that makes an artwork. This, he says, is a ‘statement’ mistaken for art. He is an old-fashioned advocate for craft, and rightly so when the rationale behind so much modern art (not all) makes for lazy art-making.

He also goes in for a defence of ‘art for art’s sake’, which I am less convinced about, considering that so much artwork made with this ideology in mind contributes to elitism in art and rides on the coattails of other ideologies. Yet he is right to point out that an aesthetic experience of art can be a valid response in its own right. His own field, poetry, is, as he suggests, a good example.


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