October 12, 2005

Say it's not so, Maya . . .

OK, so from the date of the article this is old news, but I just saw this for the first time when picking up a birthday card last night. Maybe these sort of things take longer to reach the Great White North. Anyways, she is now with the exhalted company of Barbie and Harley-Davidson with her Hallmark Gift Collection. . . *cough*sellout*cough*

  • Anyone who didn't see that sellout coming wasn't looking very carefully.
  • I had that same reaction when I first saw that article (just now) but after a second I thought, "Hey, with what she's been through? Sure - why the hell not. Good for her" Y'know? There are worse things in the world. Texas, for example. Just joshin' ya there, big T. Heh heh.
  • Puke.
  • After becoming one of Oprah's best friends, this was inevitable.
  • Interesting response... someone who is a writer by choice is selling her work. Why does this create such backlash? I agree with Petebest...good for her! This may allow her words to be seen/heard by many people who would never buy a book... looks like a great way to communicate...
  • Yeah, but this stuff is just glurge and chotchkies. I've been reading the "Complete Calvin and Hobbes" these past coupla days, as I just got my set the other day. Nobody would think twice if a comic artist sold out, yet Watterson didn't, for his own reasons and artistic integrity. For some reason, it is not the kind of thing you expect poet laureates and civil activists to do . . . it just seems to cheapen everything. And I don't believe for a moment that the point of the Hallmark cards and collection is to alow people to hear words they otherwise wouldn't -- the point of it is to make money. And as much of it as possible. Some types of commercialisation just leaves a really bad taste in your mouth. I have to admit, though, I'm not so terribly attached to the works of Maya. More of a "principle of the thing" reaction. It would take a Hallmark Leonard Cohen collection to really get me upset.
  • I think Leonard would welcome such a deal at this point . . .
  • touche.
  • Nobody would think twice if a comic artist sold out, yet Watterson didn't, for his own reasons and artistic integrity. So he doesn't take a cut from all of those stickers that show Calvin pissing on Chevy/Dodge/Ford logos, etc.? Dude should sue, if that's the case. If it's not, that's one very annoying sellout.
  • Nope. Those are all bootleg.
  • I thought this was going to be about how Autodesk bought Alias.
  • The greeting cards won't diminish her other work. Besides...we all sell out.
  • Meh. I think she's overrated, anyway. YMMV.
  • I thought this was going to be about how Autodesk bought Alias. Same here! I remember seeing her cards several years back. It didn't really strike me as surprising, nor did I think "sellout." Then again, I usually reserve that for when small unknown bands sign onto corporate record labels. And I think rockett88 may have a point there.
  • I dunno. It's because she went from poetry to poetry-for-Hallmark. If she went the other way around, going from greeting cards to 'legitimate' poetry, I'd see it differently. Because she's taking a step down (as I see it), she's taking away from her own work (which, admittedly, I never was a big fan of but still respected). Like Robert Crumb -- nobody holds his greeting card stuff against him, as he was a young guy, aimless, stuck in this cesspool of mediocrity, and he went on to better things. If Crumb went back to greeting cards now, it'd be shocking. You wouldn't think he'd need to, nor would he have the interest artistically. Or maybe he would. Maybe greeting cards with full artistic control in Crumb's hands would be an interesting exercise. Bizarre, depressing, self-reflexive birthday greetings and baby announcements... What was I saying again?
  • This is really old news. Anyway, I still love Maya's original works (her autobiography series is some of the most interesting stuff I've ever read, at least - I can see quibbling with some of her other works) and bah, for some reason I just never did get worked up about this. She's gone a bit schmaltzy as she's gotten older, but it's not bad enough to make me write her off retroactively. (But I don't buy the cards).
  • That's how I see it as well -- why sell out to the lowest-common-denominator of poetry? Sure, the money, I can follow that. But it results in a big loss of respect, and your damages your image for all posterity. After everything that she has done , you gotta wonder "why bother?" //biting my tongue on the smart-assed comments relating to some of her previous jobs
  • yes, this is america! we prefer our artists to be dead, starving, or dead from starvation! really, this is not much different than selling a book, if you accept that a greeting card is like a really short book. or like a leaflet about jewish sports legends.
  • really, this is not much different than selling a book, if you accept that a greeting card is like a really short book. or like a leaflet about jewish sports legends That's the bit I just can't accept. It's not that there is anything wrong with making a buck from your writting, it is just that it is really hard to go lower than greeting cards. And you have to accept the consequences of such an action on how people will view you if you go that route.
  • whenever my daughter (her name is maya, heh) makes/gives me a greeting card, i instantly melt into puddle and want to just gobble her right up. it is just too sweet and too cute. perhaps i'm drawing a different distinction between signifier & signified?
  • This is about where Maya Angelou's "art" belongs, treacly stuff that it is.
  • it is really hard to go lower than greeting cards Maybe she's attempting to raise the standard of greeting cards. I've never seen her cards, so I don't know.
  • Maya Angelou is black??
  • From Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers (edited to include the relevant bits): "...How about the artist of genius who has to choose between letting his family starve and painting pot-boilers to keep them?" "Well - he could stop painting. That, if he really is a genius, would be a loss to the world. But he mustn't paint bad pictures - that would be really immoral." "Why?" asked Miss Edwards. "What do a few bad pictures matter, more or less?" "Of course they matter," said Miss Shaw. She knew a good deal about painting. "A bad picture by a good painter is a betrayal of truth - his own truth." Which for me neatly sums up why the thought of a Pulizer Prize winner writing Hallmark cards feels a bit squicky. On the other hand, as rocket88 says, they might be really good greeting cards. And if she did it for the money, can't say I blame her. And if she's looking to broaden her audience for her 'real' writing, or increase the audience for poetry in general, then that's cool too. Or maybe she just really likes Hallmark cards. Still feels a bit squicky though.
  • Feelin' squicky like Tricky Dicky!
  • Angelou says she knows she may be criticized by those wondering why a writer of her stature would undertake such a commercial venture. "I'm sure I will be," she says over the phone. "But I have had criticism for a long time for different reasons." Caged Bird describes how she was raped as a child. Her longtime editor at Random House, Robert Loomis, initially was unhappy with Angelou's decision to work with Hallmark. "He said, 'You really are the American poet. All sorts of people read your poetry and take it to heart,' " Angelou recalls. But she thought, "If I'm America's poet, or one of them, then I want to be in people's hands. All people's hands, people who would never buy a book." Now, Loomis says he's impressed with what she has done for Hallmark. "I should have known that what she would do would be very telling," he says. "It's equal to anything she's written for us." Hallmark had wooed Angelou for several years, but she turned them down because "I usually have so much on my platter, book writing, poetry, teaching." Then, while lecturing 2 1/2 years ago in Kansas City, Mo., home of Hallmark, Angelou was invited to lunch with company executives. "Their manners, their behavior pleased me no end," she says. "I think it's because they are still a family-owned business, but it's a huge business. Don Hall (Hallmark CEO and grandson of the founder) was there. And there were black people there, Spanish-speaking people and women. I liked all that. "And I would like to tell you that their behavior to the waiter who was serving us impressed me," she adds. "I've been black a long time, so when I see any person behave fairly, respectfully, with someone in a station below him or her, that always catches my eye." Says Paul Barker, Hallmark senior VP for creative product development: "Our product helps people express feelings. That's what she does with her work."
  • Angelou says she knows she may be criticized by those wondering why a writer of her stature would undertake such a commercial venture. This seems like exactly the right behavior based on her stature as writer.
  • A bit of a double standard and a false dichotomy from her critics. Our museums are filled with painted portraits of royalty by classical painters. Those are all "commercial" pieces since they were painted for commission. Before the RIAA came along we had Bach and Beethoven getting paid to compose pieces for the rich. Just because it's commercial doesn't mean it can't be artistic or even a masterpiece. Great artists can transcend the commercial parameters surrounding a creative work with ease. (Of course whether they choose to do so is another matter.) What Maya's naysayers seemed to be concerned about is the way Maya is "marketing" herself, that her association with Hallmark will taint her image. The irony: they're judging her by a concept from (horrors!)the business world.
  • "But I have had criticism for a long time for different reasons." Caged Bird describes how she was raped as a child. Does the second sentence somehow follow logically from the first? What am I missing?
  • Maybe greeting cards with full artistic control in Crumb's hands would be an interesting exercise. Bizarre, depressing, self-reflexive birthday greetings and baby announcements... -Capt. Renault Ta-da!
  • Does the second sentence somehow follow logically from the first? yeah, i wondered about that, too. iirc, i snagged the article from USA Today. so... :/
  • Those are all "commercial" pieces since they were painted for commission. Before the RIAA came along we had Bach and Beethoven getting paid to compose pieces for the rich. I've always found this line of argument lacking, for the reason that Bach and Beethoven weren't getting paid to create advertising/to sell commercial products or services.
  • Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? 'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells Pumping in my living room. I've read way better greeting cards then that.
  • "than that"
  • But HWingo, wouldn't you agree Bach and Beethoven were getting paid to create products?
  • Petebest, I agree that they were paid to create products, but the products were for personal pleasure and for making your neighbors jealous. This would be the modern equivalent of you hiring Maya Angelou to write a poem especially for you, what Angelou did would be the historical equivalent of some guy hiring Bach to write short songs that could be sold to the average guy on the street.
  • Not really, they were commissioned pieces for the court or the parishoners (sp?), y'know like a pink floyd show. MOre like a prime time special or something. Just sayin' artists work for money for the most part. 51% or better.
  • Not saleable products. It wasn't part of a commercial venture. I think there's a distinction there.
  • The two sentences would follow if the criticism were the "this filth is filth, think of the children!" variety. I'm not sure it was, but I suspect that's what's being referred to. Caged Bird seems to pop up often in contested-book lists.
  • Saleable like a fireworks show. Bach gets paid to write a cantata, it's performed, end of transaction (only Bach gets to keep the work). Bach and Beethoven wrote purely for themselves on occasion, sure, but there was no Hallmark (or Chiat Day) back then either.
  • Okay how about this example rather than Bach or Beethoven: Toulouse-Lautrec, famous French artist of the late 19th, early 20th century. He did a whole bunch of posters for the Moulin Rouge. These are commercial advertisements flogging what was basically a burlesque show of the day. These posters are considered high art. According to the link if you have an original you can expect to get at least US$250K for it.
  • flogging Main Entry: flog Pronunciation: 'fl├Ąg Function: verb 1 a : to beat with or as if with a rod or whip b : to criticize harshly
  • Opps... my first post instead of preview blunder. Ahh well, I had all sorts of hilarity instore, but it's lost it's punch now.
  • You could view this as an effort by Angelou to bring poetry to the masses. Let's face it, 99% of people could give a rat's ass for poetry because it has slipped from the mainstream into the high arts. I think the question is not why Angelou has "sold out," but why she's one of the few living poets the mainstream has heard of. I could be biased, though. My mom always gets me one of Angelou's cards for my birthday since they came out, and I must admit that I like them a hell of a lot better than the usual schmaltz poetry on cards.
  • there you go then - case closed. No, it's closed I say! QED! let go of my car!
  • Let's face it, 99% of people could give a rat's ass for poetry because it has slipped from the mainstream into the high arts. Ahh.. that's why!