No Smoking, Please

Published: 2021-07-12 02:45:04
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Category: Smoking

Type of paper: Essay

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Creativity can be both a blessing and a curse. As demonstrated by this poem, the artist is often left behind the scenes and forgotten in the glitz and glamor of the movie industry. What small flame, like the end of a cigar, could be seen over the bright lights of Hollywood? Certainly, the narrator of this poem feels outside of this world. Even though his work as a screen writer is an essential part of the film industry, the delicacies of his scripts will always be outperformed by movie personalities and those that worship them. Few people who watch the films will give him due credit. However, this is not the only central message of Soto’s poem. Art is both subjugated by glamor and glitz as well as being something almost dark, unsettling and painful. Soto uses imagery from the cigar to represent his message that creativity is raw, gritty and sometimes even dangerous to the artist the same way cigars can be insidious to one’s health over time.
In the early sections of the poem, the cigar is introduced but not described directly. Instead, the poem’s persona speaks around the cigar itself and talked about the way smoke circles and settles into people’s furniture and clothing and hair. It is always present, yet masked by beauty and, no one is supposed to focus on it. For that reason, the persona knows the socially acceptable thing to do is to hide with his vice outside on the porch. He smokes outside with the dog suggesting that he is not a part of the human spectacle inside the home. He is a rawer form of nature and understands the world much differently than those around him. While it brings him a great deal of pain: longing for credit, drinking to hide his exile and smoking to find a moment of piece alone, art also brings him small joys. When he “tickle[s] his palm by raking it across a geranium,” he shows his sensitive nature (Soto, 2000). The persona has an ability to cue into the smallest details of nature and find joy from them in a way that the surface level actors may not have access to themselves.
Raw creativity is not only beautiful and dark and sublime, but it also can only exist with a willing participant. Much like the winded cigar with, “no lips to keep it alive,” art can only exist if someone puts energy into it (Soto, 2000). That energy may even turn to ash if the artist becomes too spent and bitter to carry on with his/her work. While material possessions mentioned earlier in the poem: the mohair sofa, the starlet’s hair and the twirling wine will last longer, they are not dynamic and as motivating as art. Despite art being a multifaceted concept within the poem, Soto does not necessarily wrap up his message with a neat and happy bow. Instead, the persona of his screenwriter is feeling overcome with materialism. There is a tone inherent to the ending that suggests he may be jaded and starting to feel unwilling to keep flaming the fire of his creativity. For now at least, the criss crossed legs will perpetuate the message of his films that have already been completed. His creativity is left at the mercy of marketing and the spectacle of the film industry. However, we as readers are left wondering what the state of art will become in the future if we resign ourselves to materialism and forget that films, novels, paintings and all other forms of art are organic and complex rather than surface level visuals that attract our eyes with shine alone.

Gary Soto (2000). No Smoking, Please, Poetry Magazine, May. Accessed on April 15, 2017 from:

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