Monday, March 19, 2012

Something indecent

In the very essence of poetry there is something indecent: a thing is brought forth which we didn’t know we had in us, so we blink our eyes as if a tiger had sprung out and stood in the light, lashing his tail.

Ars Poetica Czeslaw Milosz

Something indecent. The writer (particularly the poet) sneaks over the border into territory unknown, territory best left undisturbed. The writer (particularly the poet) has a way of seeing through the veils. Veils which are there for a reason, to protect us from reality, from the monstrous reality which lurks inside all of us. Watch your daily news. Be honest about your purest rage. No, don't, because even though we feed off it in other people, it's not socially acceptable and we can't stand to look.

Art is theft, art is armed robbery, art is not pleasing your mother…the true self is aggressive, rude, dirty, disorderly, sexual; the false self which mothers and society instruct us to assume, is neat, clean, tidy, polite, content to cut a chaste rosebud with a pair of silver-plated scissors.

Jeanette Winterson

Is this true? Have you looked in the mirror lately? No, I don't mean Facebook. I mean a real mirror, in someone else's eyes, someone who doesn't mind paring you down to the seedy core of your soul.

Art has quite a pair of hips and is barely contained by that dress. Art slinks. Art bites rather than kisses, draws blood. Why?

Theft, armed robbery, not pleasing your mother! Which is worse? Which is more heinous? Are we aggressive, rude, dirty, disorder. . . wait. No, that only applies to "them", the ones who have all the "nervous breakdowns", the ones who don't even earn a decent living wage but spend all their time screwing around with words.

Then why do so many people aspire to something so useless? Everyone's a novelist, and everyone can sing. Anyone can "epublish" and call themselves an author. But why?

Most of what they turn out is dishwater and requires no risk. They want the revelation without the "nervous breakdown", which is just a polite term for why doesn't she just pull herself together dammit.

Nobody wants human vulnerability shoved in their faces. Nobody wants these predatory females who not only want, but insist on sex. They're dangerous because they want want want want want so much.

There are hardly any exceptions to the rule that a person must pay dearly for the divine gift of creative fire.

C. G. Jung

It's rude and not decent to climb into these caves, to curl up inside yourself, to listen. It's narcissistic to pour your lifesblood out onto the page in the full knowledge that because you will never make a living at it, it's a complete waste of time, not to mention mad.

Why's it so good, then, to have that "creative fire"? Why does everyone want to be Hemingway when Hemingway blew his brains out? Even Hemingway wasn't Hemingway, which was perhaps why he blew his brains out.

Art wears a triple-D cup and smokes too much and demands happiness and demands orgasm and demands Truth. It's much too much too much too much, much too much of everything and more, and more, and more.

"You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don't think two people could have been happier 'til this terrible disease came. I can't fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can't even write this properly. I can't read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that — everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer. I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been."

And thus Virginia Woolf loaded stones in her pockets and waded in, convinced everyone would be better off without her. Was she right? Why does every source continually mention her multiple "nervous breakdowns"? What is a "nervous breakdown"? It's nothing, it does not exist! It's a delicate lace-doily term for somebody who just can't cut it. Who is so pale and weak that they can't poke their head outside the door, who lives on tea and those brown digestive cookies. A nervous breakdown is an indulgence, a choice, something weak people embrace when they just want a little time off. Nothing to do with raging, wrenching, gut-hollowing, soul-haemorrhaging manic depressive illness which is infinitely worse than all the cancers of the human body put together.

It was not her choice to enter the cauldron, it just happened, she had that awful stamp of greatness on her which in her case meant unbearable pain and death. She knew how indecent and disorderly her soul was. No doubt this "drove" her mad. Would it have "driven" her to heart disease or cancer? Of course not. Madness is somewhere between self-indulgence and demonic possession. This is why we tiptoe around it so delicately.

Aggressive, rude, dirty, disorderly, sexual.


  1. Even Margaret Gunning's not Margaret Gunning. Or is she? Is it how we see ourselves thru others' eyes that matters? Does anything really matter except the work? And why the work? For me it's all I know.

  2. This piece was a little incoherent and I'm still not sure what my thesis was, if any. I think it's all about keeping on. "Making it" in the arts world is the most seductive of all. Being a poet is both heavily stigmatized, and praised as the highest calling of literature and perhaps the finest expression of. . . oh skip it, I haven't had my coffee yet.

  3. I sent you Frosty Funk's latest - Clementine Cropper the Cloud Stopper - in review form, thinking to hold onto it a day or so to keep Frosty from becoming overexposed. Then I posted it but without fanfare to see if anybody would pick up on it. So far one of my favorites has, but he rated without comment. I've tweaked it a bit since the email version. Click on the title above for the finished product. I'm thinking I'll hold out for at least seven figures for the film rights.

  4. Have you casted it yet? (Every writer's favorite fantasy.)

  5. Only one character. You wanna be Clementine? Helluva ride, at least in the special effects.

  6. Reminds me of that old Huckleberry Hound song.