“It takes about ten years to make a mature dancer,” Martha Graham wrote…and it takes more than ten years (as I have now come to learn) to make a book about a transcendent artist and person.
Martha Graham – When Dance Became Modern will be published by Knopf on October 25th, 2022.
Walt Whitman, one of Martha Graham’s favorite poets, declared “I contain multitudes!” Indeed, I, too, have been nourished during my journey as an author by a vast, deep constituency of stewardship, allegiance, wisdom, artistry, sophistication, guidance, friendship – and patience.
During this treacherous but hopeful time for our culture, with half a year still to come before the book appears, I want to abstract one moment to express my respect for Martha Graham’s legacy.
My book, reaching beyond modern dance, considers such matters as the advent of the culture industry; intermingling iconoclastic art forms; the difficulties of collaboration; the trials of being a woman without patrons in the twentieth century trying to forge her own choreographic way; and the arduous process of art-making when your body is the instrument calling out to be plumbed for inspiration.
An essay that has always been central my life as a writer, still relevant for those who persist in believing in time-based embodiment in these strange days of NFTs, is The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, by Walter Benjamin – 1935/6. I offer his prescient words bearing witness to the ineffable, unique aura of Martha Graham’s embodied art.