On the Arts
essays by Naomi Beth Wakan
With a strong creative streak and a passion for learning and writing, Naomi Beth Wakan has dabbled in many different art forms during her eighty-eight years. Her activities have led her to see art as the awareness of sensory action and reaction in the everyday. In other words, opportunities for making art are everywhere, and the possibilities for expressing oneself as an artist are endless. One's very life is an art, if lived with awareness. In this collection of short essays, Wakan writes about her experiences as someone who both appreciates and practices art, covering topics such as ikebana, photography, reading, film noir, domesticity, recycling, personal essay writing, solitude, and more. This book will entertain, but also awaken the reader to the possibilities of living a rich and rewarding life by infusing one's life with awareness and creativity.
ARTS / General
ISBN: 978-1-951651-09-1 (print; softcover; perfect bound)
Released January 2020
Naomi Beth Wakan, a poet and essayist, has published over fifty books. Her most recent books are the trilogy, The Way of Haiku, The Way of Tanka, and Poetry That Heals (Shanti Arts). Naomi is a member of The League of Canadian Poets, Haiku Canada, and Tanka Canada. She is the inaugural Poet Laureate of Nanaimo (2013–2016), and has been made the Federation of British Columbia Writers Inaugural Honorary Ambassador. She lives on Gabriola Island with her husband, the sculptor Elias Wakan.
“In On the Arts, the irrepressible Naomi Beth Wakan shares with us the impressive results of an intellectual life lived to its fullest. This delightful collection of essays, poems, and musings on art in its many forms will make you ponder and smile and wrinkle your brow and above all it will have you marveling at how much wit, wisdom, and sheer audacity can reside in one solitary and seemingly unstoppable mind.”
“Naomi's lively voice takes us into an overview of the arts from the art of flower arranging to the art of flamenco, from short story writing to the art of survival, film noir to bel canto. Naomi defines art as "life lived awarely," and that is her expertise. Lively, juicy, couldn't-put-it-down good. No one else could have written this book!”
“Naomi Beth Wakan's On the Arts should come with a health warning for one is left breathless coming to the last page of her enthusiasms and her erudite interests. Her enjoyment of creativity in its multitudinous forms is magnetic and one is left with endless ideas to hammer out at dinner parties or in the local pub. With a book list of "must reads" that will take one over more than a summer holiday; and one will never be able to see things in quite the same light again.”
“Spoiler alert: In her latest book, Naomi Beth Wakan concludes that "one needs a reason to survive and mine is curiosity." With a free-wheeling intelligence, Wakan explores the nooks and crannies of her curiosity about art—what is art? can craft be art? what is creativity?—and transports the reader on a captivating journey into which she weaves poetry, quotes, and reflections about her own life in art. On the Arts is a terrific read for the curious mind and will steer you far beyond its pages.”
“Naomi Beth Wakan’s wide-ranging take on ‘The Arts,’ with chapters such as the Art of Faking and the Art of Survival, is a refreshing read that will have you alternately nodding, shaking your head, or laughing out loud. In her thought-provoking and entertaining book, Wakan challenges the reader to see the creativity and art that is found all around us; indeed in life itself.”
Naomi Beth Wakan, “Something from Nothing,” Inspired, April 27, 2022.
Phyllis Reeve, “Review of On the Arts,” The Ormsby Review, March 7, 2020
“The essayist and poet, Naomi Beth Wakan, has written over fifty books in her long lifetime, including what she considers her most solid body of work, the trilogy The Way of Haiku, The Way of Tanka, and Poetry That Heals. Now her publisher, Shanti Arts, has brought out a second edition of her popular collection of essays, On The Arts. It is a full study of the many art forms Wakan has explored in her eighty-eight years, and in these essays, Wakan not only expresses her own opinions firmly, but offers focused quotes from many artists of the modern and post-modern era.
“One of the quotes that struck me was from Carl Jung, who said, ‘It is not Goethe who created Faust, it is Faust that created Goethe.’ And Wakan’s very personal essays show clearly how her own creative expression has formed her own being. If you don’t know who Goethe, Faust, or Jung are, don’t be put oﬀ. As much as Wakan explores creativity, she is not an academic elitist. Wakan writes for her readers—people exploring their own ways to express themselves—and not the bloviating experts. Certainly, she refers to great minds and teachers, but On the Arts is written primarily for all of us who struggle with ﬁnding meaning in the marketplace and city. This book questions the purpose of art, not the ﬁnancial wizardly of auctioneers and world class museums. She makes it very clear that ART IS FOR US!
“Wakan also considers how creative expression is not just for our own mental health, but for the benefit of our social systems, and most importantly, it is for our survival. We need creative insights to tackle the problems our planet is facing.
“In her chapter on the personal essay, Wakan writes, ‘I long for the sharp political and personal insights of Nora Ephron and for Phillip Lopate’s elegant essays on anything that takes his fancy.’ Then she follows this with good advice on what makes an essay elegant or just readable. A ﬁne personal essay is absorbing because it ‘teaches so much about humankind.’ The best personal essays, Wakan points out, ‘weave the eternal into everyday moments.’ The personal essay tells of personal experiences, feelings, reﬂections that are simply sharing for no other reason than to meet other humans wherever they may sit, and hers certainly do that.
“Her essays range from those on her ‘Japanese years’ (Japanese calligraphy, Ikebana, haiga, etc.) to such abstracts as ‘The Art of Solitude’ and ‘The Art of Survival.’ She also considers a wide range of other art forms she has herself explored, from flamenco, to bel canto, to happy architecture, to food writing and photography. There is something for everyone here.
“Wakan doesn’t dwell on the crises we are facing. She writes with humility and reverence within the world and allows the reader space to take what they will in order to encourage their own creative outlets.”
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