What are things of value ?

Published on: 05-02-2015

A man has to make a living and making art and making a living are not conflicting interests per se:

I believe that poetry, ideally, has its feet in the mud and its head in the clouds.


Lately I’ve been picturing my works and myself in these terms; as poetry made by an artisan.

Not too sure yet how that relates to Art made by an Artist, but I don’t mind setting myself slightly apart from what is being taken for granted as Art and Artists.

The Dutch artist Rob Scholte once said that who claims to be an alternative artist is even more pretentious than the one who claims ‘just’ to be an artist.

I think he has a point, but nevertheless, I have always been attracted by the position just off the track.

Most probably because I like my context to be undefined, in order to define it myself.

Being “off the track” is a bit unsettling and to be unsettling means to raise doubts.


Poetry, believe it or not, can be unsettling when it introduces new ways of perception.

True, violence can be unsettling aswel, but violence unsettles me because it provides the exact opposite:

a void in which everything else becomes absolutely meaningless.


This made me think about a line of poetry of the famous Dutch painter and poet Lucebert (1924 – 1994) :


“Alles van waarde is weerloos”. 

Translated:      All things of value are defenseless/helpless/naked…


Ironically, as to prove the defenselessness of this poem, the phrase was hijacked by an Rotterdam insurance company and put on the top of their office building,

in neon letters in the 1980s. Every time I went passed that building I wished I could add the phrase :


Anything of value can’t be insured.


Because in my opinion, this is the consequence of Lucebert’s poem about the true nature of ‘value’. Things of Value are of such fundamental importance that concepts like insurances, logic, usefulness, attack or defense, beauty and meaning don’t apply.


But what does apply ? I think the concept of poetry applies to things of value. 

I consider that things of value are things of value when they contain a poetical truth.

A poetical truth is a self explanatory quality which we recognize in things of value.

And things of value are what Lucebert considered to be of things of value, in his famous poem…


I’m aware; this is a classic example of circular reasoning, but that is hardly dismissive, as self-referentially is actually a key concept in the power of poetry.

For example, self referentially is an essential quality of many creational stories,

like this one:  (from the second and fourth Brahmanas of the Brhad-arayaka Upanishad, which was written in India in the 700s or 600s B.C)


“In the beginning there was absolutely nothing, and what existed was covered by death and hunger. 

He thought, “Let me have a self”, 

and he created the mind. “


You see? Very powerful self-referential and literary creative !

So what could serve as a criteria for things of value might be the creative power of their poetry 

or in other words:  their power to create a self-explanatory poetic truth.

Here is a phrase that I cooked up myself in relation to the subject:

the power of poetry to create and define on a very fundamental perceptual level:


“Surely, one cannot engineer a bridge by just applying poetry.

But then again, without poetry, what would it bridge ?”


Geert Mul Feb. 2015