A young writerr’s first introduction to poetry begins with the schoolyard classics: “The lunatic, the lover, and the poet are of imagination all compact, as Shakespearer’s line rings. Dickenson states much madness is Divinest sense. I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.” goes Edgar Allan Poe.
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And while Sylvia Plath desperately questioned, Is there no way out of the mind? Anne Sexton admits that “Poetry led me by the hand out of madness. The most popular themes of poetry have been the same throughout its history: depression, bipolar disorder, paranoia, and just plain insanity, all glazed with a lens of romance. In this essay, I will analyze three poems by three writers not just famed for language that would influence English creativity forever, but for changing the meaning of creating art through poetry.
All three pieces can be found attached to the end of this paper. The Sylvia Plath Effect was first named by James C. Kaufman, a psychologist who took an interest in the creative field, stating the use of Plathr’s madness as a tool to analyze the truth of her poetry is the plain fetishization of her condition. A study of sample groups determined that female poets and writers were much more prone to mental health deficiencies than any other women in other creative careers, or male poets, but gave no supporting reasons for why that fact may be true. In the case of women, more often than not the refusal to participate in patriarchial values would have them dismissed as mad or hysterical. The discussion has circled around the stigmas of women being the more oppressed gender in the time of the famed young suicide, but what of the male poets who defied the stoic nature of the 20th century and previous? For me, my fascination with the macabre began with Edgar Allan Poe.
While imagery was always taught to be made rich with use of color and shape and texture, Poe reeled me in with dark, muted tones and unsettling shadows and grisly emotion. Although his most popular piece would be The Raven, for the purposes of this essay I will be analyzing Alone to exemplify the classic tormented mind. The poem opens up with an admission, From childhoodr’s hour I have not been / As others were… / I could not bring / My passions from a common spring” that he had always known from childhood that he saw things differently. His passions were not stemmed from things like spring and light and color; he saw beauty in darkness and abnormality, as that was exactly who he was. His use of em dashes portray abrupt and longing ends to his lines. He goes on, From the same source I have not taken / My sorrow… / all I lovd”I lovd alone” explaining that the very thing he found beauty in also brought him great pain, and loneliness. His grief was also his love. He circles back to childhood, …in the dawn / Of a most stormy life”was drawn claiming his life began in shrouded mystery, like begin trapped in a storm, From evry depth of good and ill / The mystery which binds me still” all the joy and grief in his life are woven into him as a code that neither he or anyone else can decipher, only observe.
His ability to express this mystery weighs him down, binds him to the despair. Poe uses color next to describe the storm red cliff of the mountain and autumn tint of gold are the colors of his dawn. Alone closes From the thunder, and the storm” / And the cloud that took the form / (When the rest of Heaven was blue) / Of a demon in my view” He continues to be plagued with the darkness, the storm, until the foreseeable end, which finally becomes him, a Lopez, 2 cursed demon. Poe intertwined the beauty of landscape with the gloom of his own depression or his otherness from most people. His fascinating and unique perspective of enamor begins a path of romanticism for like-minded artists. In the century following Poer’s example, the next giant and most notable, in my opinion, of dangerous romanticism is Sylvia Plath, for whom the phenomenon was named after.
In her poem Apprehensions, she describes a room she is in. As she moves from each wall in four stanzas, she exposes four sides of herself, her different and alternating moods and eyes with which she sees reality. The first wall is white: clean, pure, angelic. She describes a white wall as green, a color symbolizing life and growth. On this white wall, she also finds her medium, which is poetry. Poetry on the white wall is her solace amongst the other three. The next wall is grey, where there is no life, and where Plath feels she needs to escape by describing claw marks, perhaps of her own accord. This sadness wall is when she questions Is there no way out of the mind? The third wall is red and filled with pain. The red wall, fittingly the color of blood, is a pulsating fist that makes up herself, along with a terror / of being wheeled off under crosses… expressing her fear of life to be comparable to the reign of a church. The final wall is black, which classicly symbolizes death. Here are described birds, much like Poer’s raven, ominous and crying out. Plath’s tone alternates with each new stanza, ranging from a muted calm to agony and despair. Although her style varies from the well known Plath, therer’s something very distinctly feminine about Sextonr’s work. One of Anne Sextonr’s most famous poems Wanting to Die is deeply rooted in her lifelong battle with mental illness and depression.
In Wanting to Die, Sexton explains her rotating feelings about death, having possessed the enemy, eaten the enemy, / have Lopez, 3 taken on his craft, his magic. forming a deep understanding of what itr’s like to be death itself, entranced by its attraction, and even admitting spell-binding herself into a romance with death. She describes her relationship with death becoming as a lover or a friend that waits for her to so delicately undo an old wound, relieving her from the dazed and purposeless state of her life. In this way, Sexton is convinced that the certainty of death is far more inviting than being constantly betrayed by a life that year after year keeps her waiting for its end. Personifying death as both a man and a woman in this poem suggests a duality in Sextonr’s sexuality, but more generally, that death is an alluring temptress to any person. While traditionally portrayed as a terrifying figure such as the grim reaper, many literates describe death as an ally, often a romantic partner. Sexton cannot remember most days of her life before her lust for death.
Death gave her something to search for, in the same way one longs for a lover, and promises for certainty than life does. Perhaps handing the reins of her existence to death is a much more appealing alternative of struggling to control it herself. So why is the poet drawn to madness? A common thread that runs through each of these poems is the braid of beauty with tragedy, or beauty and despair at least. This method along with the grey area between a poets work and a poetr’s life has seduced readers of vulnerable and malleable minds to think that mimicking the lifestyles and outlook, no matter how alien to oneself, will result in more successful work. Some believe that expressing toxic emotions through writing can relieve their anxieties. But for others, such as writers who make a practice of reliving pain, it leaves a strive to maintain the joy of being successful with the long-term effects that come with producing it. For young writers experimenting with identity through the art of Lopez, 4 poetry, assimilating to the morbid voices of fallen artists creates the ideal that depression and other mental illnesses will solicit the same legacy. Spoken word artist Laura Dockrill says I think you’ve always got to be interested in a slightly different aspect of the universe to even want to pick up a pen and analyze the world through poetry, Perhaps by observing reality through a slightly different aspect poets revel in the things that make life different from that of an uncreative person, who might find satisfaction in accepting the world as it is as opposed to interpreting what it might mean.
Although science hasnt given an answer as to what makes a person creative, poets have already discovered that itr’s in the way one navigates the social rules and the conflict thereafter. Poet Luke Write says, I don’t think you have to be ‘mad’ to be a poet but if your mind is alive, then it can produce both positive and negative responses. It can mean wonderful things but it can mean that fitting into ‘normal’ life is difficult. A healthier and perhaps ore accurate perspective on these morose voices is not to credit their demons for the work, but to credit the writer for the work in spite of the demons.
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