on artists, “crazy” and how knowledge must conform to the shape of love

Geoffrey Lewis
16 min readJan 21, 2019


now it’s all right here to remember

“What you remember saves you.”

“Stieglitz was an immensely charismatic person, amazingly egotistical and narcissistic,” Greenough says, “but he had this ability to establish a deep communion with people.”

(GPL 12/31/22)


knowledge must conform to the shape of love, or: on artists, “crazy” and how

on artists, “crazy” and how knowledge must conform to the shape of love (original title, going with it)

Ha, ha! Are you honest?
— Hamlet


Knowledge conforms to love. It should be enough to tear the world apart, the truth of it dividing down the marrow core—


(how to organize my attempts to explain and distill? What to do with the dreck of presence and awareness above the keyboard of my life? Is all this flotsam bound to wash away to the sands of time? Maybe—if so, was it all preparation for living before death, realizing the present is all one has, and writing (thinking/talking to no one) is a waste of time? Perhaps, perhaps—but you’re not dead, you can sing and dance


knowledge, beliefs—all provisional, all depend on and react to whatever you want and need to happen;

i have dim memories of a real life—now i stay inside and think about life, i observe (am i a professional observer if nobody pays me? Am I simply unemployed?

failed out of New York again, it’s easy to write 4/25/22—maybe i should have doubled down on dating, i’m great at romantic relationships except for the earning money part; maybe this is a useful failure i can now feast on, memory as carrion, I as the buzzard


crazy or legend
passion becomes permanent
don’t betray yourself

even I am critical of the aspirational self of “poet”

i like doing things and working on things that can’t be kept track of; why is it so interesting to me to stay unknowable, untrackable, to be far away from anywhere someone might think i am? i do this obscure thing that surely won’t pay me (i.e. editing this post) but being aware of my disobedience is sort of like my oxygen; and i go and add something new to this post no one will see — is this freedom essential to me? I am writing as many men have done before and still are; who else is at a laptop making something they want to be seen for? Eventually this is hunger to be known, hence why God exists, someone who knows us inside and out in a world where no one has the time to, even a lover, certainly a boss, no one can really know you with as much capacity as they have…oh, this is turning lame, maybe I should let you talk to me; the poet’s job is to listen, right? To be as open as nature ~ to dare to do what might not compute, to dare to do what will go nowhere, which won’t be accelerated (I will ‘Save and publish’ this post then forget about it until next time I decide to revisit it when I notice something that could be added, which is actually how I’ve done most of my work; part of my writing is just new stuff that gets piled up sequentially; another part of it coheres around a theme, so that when I remember a body of work in progress that’s about that certain theme, I add to it, therefore stringing together disparate moments when I went to that receptacle to drop the current thought-anchor…this is an organized web of obsession toward safety, wholeness ~ how to ‘get it all down’ and make a complete work, which will of course be for no audience save humans 50–100 years after my death who might have superhuman attention spans ~ or maybe this is all just muddy water I am trying to run out of my pipes so that I can “say the courageous thing, do the useful thing and contemplate the beautiful thing” which T.S. Eliot said was enough for one man’s life. Anyway, oh, he also wrote about being a poet and being OPEN TO being crazy, i.e. becoming a place ‘crazy’ can settle and express itself and have a party — yes, a poet is a host, a venue, a place where emotions and revelations can settle and explode ~

“CRAZY” IS A word that does some dirty cultural work. It is a flip way of referencing mental illness, yes. But it’s also a slippery label that has little to do with how a person’s brain works and everything to do with how she is culturally received.

i am learning my writing is not good and should not be read (of course I have to do it and post it, if only so I have to scroll past the weight and size of it to remember what making anything is like; yes, the poet is good at metaphor and empathy, knows how to relate disparate, private things (like the weight and distance of my toil with yours; I work hard in the studio making something with all my attention and memory and taste and future wrought in my hands, second by second, minute after minute, working hard every day piling up each day on the wreckage of the ones behind, never stopping to remember

she was and is a badass; the arts are NOT about material success, she’s right

the only thing that makes you happy is creating,
aligning yourself with the nature of the universe

listening to neighbors’ wind chimes

ripping up yesterday’s leftover biscuit into bits for the birds and squirrels

(what to make what I’ve made into now? how to keep using the elements I’ve churned up under my name? What to do with these rocks I can’t stop making? I don’t really believe in beginnings, middles and ends…)

everything…is the same shape

that’s us; the question is then who to tell. The charge is to understand why we doubt, why we feel a need to re-exert it and get it confirmed; what is wrong with silence and assuredness? The haunting sense that not everyone is as joyful? Is other people’s joylessness a problem to solve? How responsible can one person be?

Good; I’ve become a stranger to myself again. 2/1/21 // frankly I can’t believe time kept going on and now we’re at the feet of another ordinary decade, the story unfolds, we’re all here together and everyone’s clamoring, saying “I’m here!” standing up and being counted, it’s sweet, how could I hate it? That’s where I’ll love

(is my art just a man who refuses to live? Maybe I know too much, am too tired, worn out, defeated, destroyed, can barely stand, am weak physically…I surrender to the plush chair and write, make posts ~ I dare to not vigorously promote any ideology or security or moneyed thing; daily I unlearn coercion

so this is a diary, therapy, waiting for meaningful eye contact where something is at risk and there’s something to uphold; maybe I’m in a drama vacuum, the meaning has been sucked out, there’s no mistakes possible, all is perfect and flowing and I accept my role as individual contributor and manager and director and vice president of unfolding my walking protein cartridge that remembers too much and expected the world and now I just live, plod out like a tortoise and do my page or two, greet friends, like an old woman in a small town, going to the bakery and farmers’ market; all depends on night

the reality of night conquers all that was written in the day

maybe the point was to get old, get original, and be prepared to long properly for home ~ this is a messy way of saying I was moved by a song which included speaking from and about a country I have ancestry in: Ireland

the flag is orange, green and white…

maybe what my art is: I long to go home and can’t go home again; would have to find a home or make one—this is what music is about: lostness, displacement; so? Being right about this is lonely? I’m free but broke, not inked to belonging through money

maybe the tapestry is coming together?

maybe art is just practice for conversations and being in conversation is living and art is just practice living yet essential ~ ok, i am here to confuse everyone who knows me, and we together must get down to transforming language

no haha what this is about is my having outlasted any doubt i wasn’t going to make it hahahaha but this can’t be read; but everyone has their own laugh track in their own head, their own private legacy of self-doubt and not wanting to be here — the voice you use to whisper your way…


none come further than being grateful for a woman

no further art necessary, your honor

the only question remaining is why the Instagram post doesn’t pop us as a Preview in Medium like the other links; men and ownership, walls, all sorts of words I’ve heard from women. Huh. OK.


new sketch 9/14/20 to keep from destroying everything in my apartment out of rage of one kind or another

on artists: rage machines in touch with every bit of the world’s action

resisting therapy

resisting questions

the quench is sexual; the desire to be destroyed

, “crazy” and how knowledge must conform to the shape of love: we long for our mothers but they are gone, even while alive; forever i am a toddler reaching, impractical, unable to be helped (so it appears from the inside), always another interpretation to rid myself of that is ultimately wrong, always another mistake to make —

“We are, I know not how, double within ourselves, with the result that we do not believe what we believe, and we cannot rid ourselves of what we condemn.”
— Michel de Montaigne

I keep trying to get this one right.

Being both sides of my self: left brain, right brain. Lawyer. Disobeyer. Conundrum, conflict…these are good words; the question is always audience, community. Language

been thinking about this a lot. Community and money have been on my mind, as I doubt I have (access? possession? ownership?) either — the reality zooms ahead of what can be explained; this is good in the morning; making a fresh batch of nonsense means you’re alive, and nothing else; not a set thing

i could say more but i’d risk losing the thread and therefore every reader who might come this way; it’s a long road to being polished, to knowing how to deal with your own crap

the shape of anything is the shape of everything

time doesn’t really exist; you can re-enter a conversation or a work in progress and start adding to it and it’ll make sense

time has been ripped from its moors due to coronavirus (adding this 4/3/20; we are committed to linear time because of money, the almighty dollar, the damnation taking its toll on the planet and The New York Times, a shortage of ventilators and bodies are collapsing and nurses are depressed because everyone essential is underpaid and money is oxygen and the American body is starving and not ready for this pain and it needs a mother and there is no mother, this infant tyrant kid got kicked out of the house for being a pest, a nuisance, a termite, a fracture, a gull

now this has to be poetry, a place where anxiety meets technique and patience, where screaming meets silence, where man meets mortality


The difference between a genius and a crazy person: a genius can talk about what he does and how it fits in with the culture, what’s recorded, what’s talked about, what’s known and what other people are doing; it’s a day-by-day thing, integrity, an ability to talk about yesterday — and someone to hear you today who also heard you yesterday

this part is the miracle: the continuation, the having something to cite; the reappearance of the same person from yesterday — this is all a coming back to the human equipment and learning how to drive it. Sociopath isn’t the worst word: strategy and management are essential: seeing yourself in the network and moving your piece up. But the scorekeeping is lame; apparently everyone right now is scrambling to get their dollars so they can pay their bills — it sounds like hell, and I’d rather stand to the side of all that fury slush.

Is this cultural awareness and knowing what’s going on out there?

Culture. It’s a way of seeing and classifying what we see and what it means; it’s a reaching back for a way of interpreting events.

My father always calls and asks about my friends. I tell him I’ve had to move on, to make new friends, though friends might not be the right word. Contacts. Awarenesses. Vibes. Correspondences. Minds. Mostly it’s minds, and mostly in life I’m alone, preparing my food, drinking water, typing, reading, sending…life is something that will happen later when I can afford to “go out,” when I can afford to not use the computer, when I have money coming in reliably. I don’t think it will ever be done and I don’t know if I want it to be. Knowledge and desire…this is where we get in trouble, but this [piece of art, epic poem, creative nonfiction, word salad] is a fine place to sketch it out, a fine place for the energy to go toward non-arrival, a place to reckon with the nonexistence of an end. The question is who will read it? Who would edit it? Where in linear time will that conversation take place? The incentives would have to be there; someone will only do something if they believe it will make them money. Is this an anti-capitalist poem? Well yes, I do want to turn the economics on their head, I do want to fund the creative and critical class, I do want to cultivate online independent thinkers more so than college students which really just serve the hierarchy underpinning them: a pipeline to corporate America and Wall Street and Washington, all writ in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal which really just detail the worst human beings on the planet, wealthy land-grabbers who have no patience. That’s not entirely true, but truth is tough — it’s up to you to listen to various sources, bring all your notes and fragments into your pot, simmer, and ladle out your beliefs. It isn’t easy being a person when you realize how much power you have. It’s easier to let a job define you, or a marriage, or family, or friends. It’s easier to fit in — go to work, come home, have a home life like the ones on TV or Instagram or Facebook. But I listen to my own star and keep creating honest work. It can’t be denied the years I put in, and I don’t mind if this is memoirish. Honestly I’ve needed to work on my long-form work rather than just impassioned tweeting about what feels wrong with the world (or my life) on any given hour. This is the deep work with music I have been suggesting everyone else do — time, as ever, to take my own medicine.


A crazy person isn’t taken seriously. The challenge with the homeless is they don’t have patience; they perform but they don’t know how to edit; they can’t see themselves objectively: they don’t want to write because then they’d have to listen to it…they’d have to love themselves, and see themselves as others do, and it would break their heart. They’d see that they can save themselves; all it takes is someone helping them with the computer, setting up a blog…surely the rich people at home on *their* laptops


there’s a rant in here about ownership

the rich would read about homeless people believing in themselves and self-teaching and worshipping the same institutions that got the rich where they are (universities, governments)

“social services”

perhaps this is all a coming together; perhaps every work of art is a means of closing the gap, of trying to get others to see what you see: the possibly synergy between people who, on first look, have nothing in common and are even enemies and in each other’s way

but really, the homeless and the venture capitalists are the same inside, they both had a mother, they both had a father, they both try to survive and be proud of themselves and make sense of their situation

What might be true: a crazy person doesn’t know how to jam like a great jazz cat, play with others, speaking a language together with them (riffing on cultural artifacts, speaking from a mutually and implicitly acknowledged shared past)

this could be more than a Medium post

perhaps my form needs to grow up. Gumroad, Patreon, Substack…I was even asked this

what’s the exile, the fear, the holdup? it isn’t self-doubt; maybe it’s lack of preparation for becoming infinite, for

“You are wise and will go far. Move the focus of your writing away from you and seek to speak for the world and become timeless.”
— an accomplished attorney, a family friend, just the other night

the problem isn’t my work, it’s the world: the world isn’t organized around me

so I have to keep improving my way of seeing


your internal state merges with theirs in a lovely way without being threatening; you keep it together while losing it together; it’s passionate but nonsexual

“In itself, homosexuality is as limiting as heterosexuality: the ideal should be to be capable of loving a woman or a man; either, a human being, without feeling fear, restraint, or obligation.”
― Simone de Beauvoir

the crazy person doesn’t have the patience or the skills to have a two-hour coffee meeting with someone smart and connected to the industry, to the past, to the form, to the living legends who want to hand off the torch, who want to entrust

[thinking about fundraising and delivering — yes, I’ll need to justify why I know what I know and put myself into a download. I was born to be an online module, and you were meant to see me and attempt an understanding; it’s on me to organize the documents and/but it feels like my work is always just beginning — and this is a pastime and a priesthood


It’s all about how I see people AND how I see work (i.e. always in progress, always being leisurely or vigorously added to and chiseled)

ha, “how I see people”

Everyone has time for what they want to do. So, make them want you AND be worth wanting. The job is twofold. What will they be after 2–4 weeks of nightly hourlong online courses?


if I can figure out privacy and how to numb my aliveness a little while also having safety and security
or if I can learn how to not have it all all at once and still have faith I’ll be OK
if I can live both one and two days at a time with my lover…it’s amazing the world has been sustained through so many two-day spans. Two days is so long a time; two weeks from now sounds impossible, yet scheduling happens that far out.

the crazy artist must not need anything from the process; it cannot love him back, but he can love *himself* by doing the act, the practice, knowing how each gesture or brushstroke fits within one disciplined hour, which opens the door to a radically progressive warmed-up second hour where he is at the edge of his range…and how that second hour leads toward the fourth and fifth hour of working and trying to circulate his work meaningfully among particular friends and confidants…and then he should consider stopping for the day, eating, stretching, taking care of the body and some household chores or affairs like the pile of mail at the bottom of the stairs or the administrative emails I keep archiving if they’re not going to kill me today. But all this exists in the lineage of a week, a season, a year…and a year is a vintage of the vines of the winery with a brand and a standing in a category (a region, a kind of wine)…


maybe seeing artist in the singular is the problem
maybe seeing people’s individuality is the problem
maybe a podcast interview is an unnatural state

how to not force any outcome yet be safe and secure financially; is any security offered to anyone unwilling to work for somebody else?

where am I in every question mark? (this doesn’t do anything for the reader)

ultimately, a blank space and a full line are the same thing
ultimately, it’s an act of faith and letting go, letting what you did put out there mingle with the people that really are there…you have to let reality do its thing

and so knowledge conforms to the shape of love because it’s love that pushes you on; love is the common fundament of hope, faith, resignation and surrender…trust

and so the geography of all visible, perceptible and felt becomes the shape of the heart
the geography of the space between perception and reality, event and response, fact and fiction, aloneness and togetherness

surely I know I’m in good company and have found my people, and everything I read today will be exactly tuned to the feeling of all I’ve rewritten here

i don’t know what this was supposed to be, but i have rid myself of the belief that i have done anything other than make a bunch of nonsense that felt right at the time — it was all an experiment, and it all flows forward; it might just be so that i have made many thought-paintings that aren’t fit for consumption; i wonder when the time will come to read/consume/listen to all the content that’s been made the last 10 years; audience is the most interesting question, tribal drumbeat, being a leader, being listened to, how fertile and alive the whole system of people is — seeing people like a system.