Manifesto of a Starving Artist by Ten Itchy Fingers
by Julia Cohen
I have an anonymous source. Starving. A source that’s an anonymous starving artist. Anonymously starving. He tells me, “You know you’re a real writer when that starving feeling keeps you from dying.” I say, “Keeps you from dying?” He says, “Yeah, keeps you from dying. Sometimes your body won’t let you die if you’re too hungry.” He says, “And its funny, almost, because all you can write about is food. I wrote a whole story about a feast one time, just a long smorgasbord. Oh, it was a beautiful thing, my friend. Delicious even. But you can’t be any old hungry person who sits down at a typewriter; else you’ll just end up with lists. An arteest,” and he said it just like that, “An arteest is not just a layman gone hungry. I’m telling you something important here: a grocery list won’t keep you from starving to death.”
My anonymous source, starving not to die, writing to not starve, dying to write, has a potbelly. He pokes it with his pencil and tells me, “So I have a fat roll. I tell you, that’s the sign of success. Fatty success! You know you’ll really make it, as a goddamn genuine starving artist when you’ve surrounded yourself by hordes of rich crony friends. I am doomed for success. I have hordes, I tell you.”
He piles on another layer of clothing as he tells me, he tells me as he bulks up, “These hordes, my friend, oh they have to know I’m cold.” “Cold?” I say. “Cold all right,” he says, “No heat for me, I’m telling you. My thermostat is iced over. That’s the sign! You gotta wear twelve pounds of sweaters. They have to know that all the dough you’ve got, all the moolah, is going into sweaters and ink.” He smacks his lips and says, says as he smacks his lips, “You’ll be a real live in the flesh arteest if your piggybank’s filled with ice and your typewriter’s rattling its teeth. I tell you, open your ears because I’m letting you in on a secret here: the warmth is in the friction between your fingers and the keys. That’s where the heat is my friend. That’s the goddamned honest source. I’m telling you, this is the secret of the starving artist.”
My anonymously cold arteest tells me, “So me and my typewriter, we’re partners in crime. We’ve got this mutual admiration thing going for us. He knows, my typewriter that is, that you gotta have Ichy Fingers. Capitol “I,” capitol “F.” My typewriter lets my itchy fingers scratch out stories, beat out novels, bash out poems because it isn’t abuse so much as it is love. Itchy Fingers is starving artist love is how my typewriter rings and chortles. We’ve got this beautiful thing, I tell you. Our own society, you could say even, where you have to be a little bit cold, a little bit starving, a little bit full, and a little bit crazy.” He turns to me and asks, he asks me as he turns, “Are you a little bit chilly?”
I say, “Why yes.”
So he asks, “Are you a little bit starving?”
I say, “Yes!
He asks, “Are you a little bit full?”
I say, “Yes! Yes!
He asks me, “Are you a little bit crazy, dear?”
I say, “I am!”
And we fall into an embrace, two artists, twenty itchy fingers. We are freezing to be crazy, crazy to die, dying to not starve, starving to write. He tells me, “Now that’s love, man, that’s love.”
About the author:
Julia Cohen recently completed a Ford Fellowship at Wesleyan University. She lives in Brooklyn and is currently a freelance editor at Green Eagle Press and the Marketing and Development Assistant at Nightboat Books. This is her first prose publication but her poetry has previously been published in How2, GutCult, Hanging Loose, Moist Towelette and the upcoming issue of Word for/ Word.