A beautiful failure…

a beautiful failure by Duane Toops

I know that its not the artists job to interpret the work, or to answer the questions left hanging in the air by the presentation of the work. But, somehow I feel like some kind of addendum is in order for this piece. I started writing this unsure of what to say about it, and I as write I’m still not sure. I hope that by typing something closely akin to a stream of consciousness on this blank screen maybe something will occur to me….it hasn’t yet.

Maybe its not so much that I don’t know what to say in regards to this piece, so much as there’s so much to say, and I just don’t know how to say it or where to start.

The first thing I thought about after I made the poem was a song written by Jon Foreman from a band called Switchfoot:

It was a beautiful letdown
When I crashed and burned
When I found myself alone, unknown and hurt 

The deep seated letdown of finding oneself lonely, anonymous, and brutally damaged is a feeling I’m all too familiar with, even more so now that my life has seemingly plummeted into the ground in an explosive blaze.

This, too, reminds of a few lines in a poem by Philippe Jaccottet that I cam across recently:

Love, like fire, can only reveal its brightness

on the failure and the beauty of burnt wood.

And yet, another poem still. This one by Antonio Machado:

Last night I dreamed—blessed illusion—

that I had a beehive here

in my heart

and that

the golden bees were making

white combs and sweet honey

from my old failures.

I relish the thought of something beautiful being wonderfully made from the burning debris of our letdowns and failures; as if the fires of our fatal wounds were a forge in which the hurt can be hammered into something meaningful, where we can somehow, someway, be wrought back to life. But, I struggle to see it.  The crash is so visceral; the burning so incendiary, the shrapnel so serrated, that I grapple to find the beauty in it.

Maybe that’s why I continue to turn to the practice of making art. If I cannot find the beauty in the pyre, perhaps I can make it myself.

Perhaps, in the flaming face of my failures, there is a place where even my smallness can reach deeply into where destiny still swings…


  1. Jared

    Last night on YouTube I watched your podcast conversation with Eric G. Wilson. I read his book Against Happiness when it came out. Loved it. I looked through it yesterday, so I googled him on YouTube. That’s how I discovered one of the best literary conversations I’ve ever encountered on that website. I would have posed a comment to that effect, but I can’t figure out how to do so without my Google account name showing up. Nope, not gonna happen. I don’t know it is that people manage to post comments on it under what are obviously made-up names. Anyway, just wanted to thank you for that interview.

    • Wow! Thank you so much for your kind words! That really means a great deal to me. It was a surreal moment for me to get the opportunity to have that conversation with Eric Wilson, and it was definitely my favorite interview I’ve ever done. I got so much out of it and I really didn’t want it to end. So, I’m incredibly grateful that you got something out of it as well. It will probably continue to be one of the highlights of my life. Thanks again, I really appreciate you taking the time to watch and especially for taking the time to comment!

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