Sunday, May 3, 2009

Madness and Poetry

Since the dawn of culture, the closeness of creativity and madness has been recognized. History is filled with the lives of creative people who suffered from what now would be classed as mental or personality disorder. Plato, in his Pheadrus, classifies four types of divine madness: prophecy, religion, poetry, and love. Poetry is the only artistic domain recognized as mad. We won't go into historic annecdotal speculations, neither about poets or any other artists. What started my thought train here was the explanation of John Clare and his asylum admissions when I read one of my poems dedicated to him. It reminded me how many of our most influential poets were aberrant, deviant from the usual, though not necessarily certifiably mentally ill or insane. I've been aware of some, influenced directly by some, personally touched by some. And then I found a study of what are known as "schitzotypes," people who do not suffer from schitzoid symptoms but still don't act "normal." They seem to display more creative brain activities than either of the other two, are easier to use old tools in new ways.

William Blake had his visions. Ezra Pound spent much of his later years locked in an asylum. Emily Dickenson had her agoraphobia. Edgar Allan Poe succumbed to drugs and alcohol. Dylan Thomas, Jack Kerouac and others drank obsessively. Some, like Thomas Chatterton or Sylvia Plath, gave up. And, of course, my friend Walter Bevan, whose Dead Leaves and Other Flowers was published posthumously.

Schitzophrenic, paranoid, bipolar (manic/depressive), compulsive/obsessive, addictive. These are some of the more common irregularities found among us poets, especially those of us who are not "schitzotype" but have to deal with the strangeness of living and other people.

I know, have been associated, with people who would easily fall into such a category but stuffing others into niches is not something I do well. I much prefer to find one for myself, and by myself. I tried on the "schitzotype" label but found it didn't fit. Every day in some way is still a breath away from my own demons, my own addiction. I suppose in my small way, I too am mad. Just another mad poet.

1 comment:

annaken said...

So far, I have not observed "madness" in you Jefferson. We are all different, some react to sad things by crying, some go inward and withdraw, which just shows that all humans feel pain and sorrow. One does not have to be a writer to be "mad", in fact, I think that writing can help one verbalize their feelings and save them from going off the deep end.

Just my two cents worth!