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"crazy poets"
Posted by: talia (---.plymouth.in.hypervine.net)
Date: May 05, 2003 01:12PM

Can anyone list poets they know of that were known to have mental illnesses of any sort. I know of Sylvia Plath, maybe Edna St. Vincent Millay, any others?


Re: "crazy poets"
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.MCLNVA23.covad.net)
Date: May 05, 2003 01:56PM


John Clare, Anne Sexton, Poe, mebbe.


poets
Posted by: ilza (200.162.247.---)
Date: May 05, 2003 02:52PM

am I the only one who does not like to admit it, regarding these poets ?


Sara Teasdale


Re: poets
Posted by: molly (---.cache.pol.co.uk)
Date: May 05, 2003 03:59PM

Charlotte Perkin Gilman suffered severe post-natal depression, hence, 'The Yellow Wallpaper'.


Re: poets
Posted by: Marian-NYC (---.nyc1.dsl.speakeasy.net)
Date: May 05, 2003 04:21PM


Ilza's question goes right to the issue of STIGMA, and I think that has changed like fashion over the years.

There have been times that the family of a poet would want to conceal any hit of "insanity." There have been times when mental illness was romanticized ... equated with genius ... used to disquality art (of many kinds) from consideration ...

I believe that there are lots of poets who do not suffer from any form of mental illness and would not describe themselves as "depressed" or "crazy" or anything like that.

But based exclusively on my personal acquaintance with poets, I could argue that poetry is a bridging mechanism for people whose connection with reality is problematic. I'm putting this as vaguely as I can, obviously, because it's NOT true that "all the poets I know are nuts," even though it sometimes feels that way.

I also know several poets -- I mean published, "known" authors of highly admired poetry -- who can't tie their own shoes or get through a day without some kind of self-inflicted disaster. One of the most cerebral poets I've ever met is also the least self-aware person I've ever known and has no "street smarts" or practical sense at all.

=====

I am not driving at any particular conclusion about mental illness and poetry. REALLY I'M NOT!!!

There are those who write poetry to glean their teaming brains.
There are those who write poetry to avoid facing real life.
There are those who write poetry to glorify and appreciate real life.
There are those who write poetry to get better.
There are those who write poetry to avoid getting better.
There are those...
There are those...
There are those...


Re: poets
Posted by: ilza (200.162.247.---)
Date: May 05, 2003 04:32PM

a long list :

[www.harborside.com];


Re: poets
Posted by: talia (---.plymouth.in.hypervine.net)
Date: May 05, 2003 06:24PM

Well Maion-NYC you seem to have quite an opinion about this, I was afraid I might upset someone (maybe we fear the truth about ourselves). I am just interested in the subject of the connection between mental health and art (of all sorts). I can't explain my own fascination with it, I think the idea gives wordlessly explains some things.

I agree completely that there are many "normal" poets who do not seem to show any such reflections in their poetry or lifestyles, but isn't it interesting, and dosn't it give LIFE to the poems of Sylvia Plath, and would Virginia Woolfe's "Mrs Dalloway" make any sense at all if we did not know of her condition?

You can call me crazy if you want.


Re: poets
Posted by: Marian-NYC (---.nyc1.dsl.speakeasy.net)
Date: May 06, 2003 11:00AM

Talia, for more (lots and lots!) on the art produced by people suffering from mental illness, look into the subject of so-called "outsider art." It's a hot topic in the art world right now and there are exhibitions and publications galore.

I attended a conference session devoted to the subject (a couple of presentations on particular artists, and some discussion of the "issues" raised) and as I listened I found myself thinking that there is NOT a parallel debate concerning written art. There are plenty of conversations (like this one!) about the relationship between mental state and poetic output, but I'm not aware of anyone saying that the output should be judged differently if the poet is known to be mentally ill. And I wondered: Is that because words are different from images? Or is it because of the large amounts of money at stake when an "outside artist" is brought to the attention of the commercial art world?

=== === ===

STORY TIME!

In college I had to write about one of the Spanish poets we read in an advanced Spanish Lit class. I decided to take a poet who had committed suicide in a very dramatic fashion, and comb through his later poems for indications of suicidal feelings and intentions. I wrote what I considered a very good paper, twenty pages on the signs, in his poetry, of a troubled mind approaching the decision to end it all.

I turned it in, then went back to reading the various poets, and ...

Discovered that I had confused two of them. "My" poet didn't commit suicide, it was another guy.

I offer this story as a comment on Talia's question about reading MRS. DALLOWAY with (or without) knowledge of the author's "condition."

(And by the way, my wonderful professor gave me a "void" for the paper and let me write another one for grading purposes.)


Re: poets
Posted by: RJAllen (193.114.111.---)
Date: May 06, 2003 02:52PM

Robert Lowell, Christopher Smart, John Berryman, William Cowper, Ivor Gurney, Richard Savage, Delmore Schwartz.
Other possible candidates: they coped with their without medical attention: Samuel Johnson, Emily Dickinson, Swinburne, Tennyson. Philip Larkin seems to have suffered severe depression at the same time he abandoned poetry or poetry abandoned him. Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen were both treated by Dr. W.R.R. Rivers in World War I: they were both cured, in that they returned to front-line duty. Robert Graves suffered from "neurasthaenia" for many years after the war.
R.D.Laing scored three ways:psychiatrist, madman, poet.


Re: poets
Posted by: talia (---.plymouth.in.hypervine.net)
Date: May 06, 2003 05:06PM

Ok, in a very narrow minded, yet probably accurate thought, I submit this idea to you: there are two types of poets: the poet who is very smart and very talented and writes poetry becasue he CAN. The other, the poet who writes poetry BECAUSE SHE HAS TO. I suspect that Marion-NYC is the first. I applaud your great talent, however, I never passed a math class higher than the 8th grade level, although I exceeded everyone by far when it came to Language Arts-related studies. This application is true to every part of my life today......what do you think about that? Am I right? Are you a good math and science student, Marion-NYC? I bet you are good at all of them.


Re: poets
Posted by: RJAllen (193.114.111.---)
Date: May 07, 2003 10:39AM

Can't trace the source, but there was a report a year or two ago in the UK that people suffering from mental illnesses benefitted not just from writing, but from reading poetry. i'll look further.
As to your last point, talia, there have been cases of your first sort: (it's interesting that you class them as "he", the driven poet as "she"- I don't think this is true.) William Empson began as a superb mathematician, then became a revolutionary poet and critic. Liam Hudson wrote on apparent differences between scientific and artistic psychologies, and suggested that much of the difference was a matter of self-identification.
Can't remember who wrote it, but:
"She writes because she must,
My gifted daughter Ann."
How nice. Let's not pretend
She writes because she can.


Re: poets
Posted by: Pam Adams (---)
Date: May 07, 2003 01:36PM

The 'can versus must' probably pertains to all writers- it may be more obvious in poetry because almost no one can make a living on this stuff.

Re the math skills versus language skills- there's been discussion recently that both Einstein and Newton may have had Asberger's syndrome- a mild form of autism. (not purely accurate, but close enough for discussion purposes.) Many of the 'computer geeks' that I know follow the pattern of relating well to math, logic, and machinery- but not well to the 'soft skill' that works for language arts or working with people.

pam


Re: poets
Posted by: Marian-NYC (---.nyc1.dsl.speakeasy.net)
Date: May 07, 2003 02:29PM

Talia theorizes that there are poets who CAN write (from talent, enthusiasm, desire) and poets who MUST write (from inner demons of one kind or another), and she wants to know if I'm a "must" poet or a "can" poet.

I can squirm out of that one, because: I AM NOT A POET. I have in my 45 years produced a handful of things that could be called poems -- though I don't see how Talia could know that -- but I know poets and, trust me, I'm not one.

In fact, I can even squirm out of my own earlier pronouncement about poets who write for this or that reason, because I've been thinking about how one poet can write from various sources during various periods of life. And that's not just true of poets. I know that in all aspects of my life I am sometimes DOING STUFF because I can, and sometimes because I must, and sometimes because I'm afraid not to. Writing... music... activism of any kind--once you're involved, you learn that "the community" includes people with healthy and unhealthy motivations; people who want to share their bounty and people who need to fill a void; people inspired by visions and people driven by demons, etc. I became an activist out of demon-driven guilt and need, but I fell in among a really good crowd and over the years I "converted"--with occasional lapses.

(And yes, I was a good math student.)


Re: poets
Posted by: talia (---.plymouth.in.hypervine.net)
Date: May 08, 2003 12:38PM

I thought so.

And I only refer to the "can" as a "he" and the "must" as a "she" for no actual reason.

RJ Allen I loved the info that you gave me and am releived whenever I learn about learn about "people like me". Maybe it's just a positive excuse for my inabilities.


Re: poets
Posted by: talia (---.plymouth.in.hypervine.net)
Date: May 08, 2003 12:38PM

I thought so.

And I only refer to the "can" as a "he" and the "must" as a "she" for no actual reason.

RJ Allen I loved the info that you gave me and am releived whenever I learn about learn about "people like me". Maybe it's just a positive excuse for my inabilities.


Re: poets
Posted by: RJAllen (193.114.111.---)
Date: May 08, 2003 05:11PM

"Must write" vs "can write"
Poetry , Johnson says , enables us the better to enjoy life, or the better to endure it. "Must write" poetry" may help the author, but it usually needs a "can write" process before it helps other people. "Can write"is a skill that can be learned.
The poem i quoted (o5.o7.03. 09.390 is by William Plomer.


Re: poets
Posted by: Talia (---.plymouth.in.hypervine.net)
Date: May 27, 2003 05:43PM

"Perhaps no one can be a poet or even enjoy poetry, without a certain unsoundness of mind." Thomas Babington Macaulay.


Re: poets
Posted by: Alexandra Kilpatrick (---.proxy.aol.com)
Date: May 27, 2003 06:30PM

Lewis Carroll was a lecturer in Mathematics...


Re: poets
Posted by: Marian-NYC (---.nyc1.dsl.speakeasy.net)
Date: May 27, 2003 07:27PM


I suppose you could argue that Marlowe had a mental illness -- multiple personality -- if he really was Shakespeare as well as Marlowe.


Re: poets
Posted by: Pam Adams (---)
Date: May 27, 2003 10:02PM

No, just a pseudonym. Of course, he had to be Bacon, and Lord 'whoever' as well.......

pam


Re: poets
Posted by: RJAllen (193.114.111.---)
Date: May 28, 2003 04:33PM

Wrong! Shakespeare was all of them. Queen Elisabeth had to 'die' when he started earning money and didn't have time to dress in drag any more.
Caryl Brahms & S J Simon: No Bed for Bacon is good.




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