I’ve been reading up a lot on the genre known as “Confessional Poetry”, which has been revolutionised by the likes of Sylvia Plath amongst others. When reading sections and chunks of Sylvia’s writing one needs to approach it with an understanding that life is not perfect. Life is not beautiful. Life is dirty. And sometimes to really be able to go through it, you have to be able to see the dirt.
I’m only mentioning Sylvia Plath because I connect more with her writing. I feel as if I’ve lived some of the moments she has written, and more so I write the same desperate- ugly- somewhat difficult to stomach kind of things. I’ll admit it is a kind of obsession I have with Sylvia, but her writing really does draw you in and leave you questioning everything you ever thought you understood about yourself- well I know it does that with me.
Writing has played a great role in my life.. From the way I think to the way I express myself and I think I’m definitely more open in my poetry than I am in real-life. It’s not a state of hiding, but rather a state of being able to say difficult things without judgement. In the words of IWroteThisForYou, “I have pretended to go mad in order to tell you the things I need to. I call it art. Because art is the word we give to our feelings made public. And art doesn’t worry anyone.” (2009). Poets are considered some of the most insane people in the world. Well most artists are some form of crazy and that is really where all that writing brilliance comes from. From the “wounded”, the “tortured” artist a bounty of works that continue to mesmerise, shock, and inspire has been created by the likes of Plath, and others.
Critics Adam Kirsch, Jacqueline Rose, and M. L Rosenthal have written critically about the kind of poetry that comes from being brutally honest and almost cathartic in the sense of writing to release, to have ones emotions (true and raw), immortalised on pages. Sylvia Plath is one of the writers that has been a continuous subject for all three critics and this is largely because of her the way in which her writing- sometimes cryptic, sometimes not, pulls you into it’s core and pushes you to admit that life really is not as lovely as we’d all like it to be.
The three books by these critics I’d like to own are The Wounded Surgeon: Confession and Transformation in Six American Poets (2005), The Haunting of Sylvia Plath (1991), and Our Life in Poetry: Selected Essays and Reviews (1991). I have yet to read these books, but based on my interest in the work of Sylvia Plath, I’d love to own these books. Other books written more recently are Tortured Artists by Christopher Zara (2012), and Out of the Darkness by Steve Taylor.
The topic of “the tortured artist” is one of those immensely taboo topics, what I mean by that is it is considered a myth. In the discussion of his book Tortured Artists (2012), Christopher Zara looks at debunking the consideration of “the tortured artist” as a myth: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christopher-zara/tortured-artists_b_1605509.html – this debunking is vital of course because it places a great and seemingly necessary level of understanding on the creative mind and the depths through which creativity has be mined from.
Plath like so many before her, dealing with depression, anxiety, life and every little bit of “unjoy” amidst the joy, dealt through writing. Those who have never scraped the bottom of the barrel of life can never truly understand the catharsis that writing can lend the mind and it’s inhabiter. Adrienne Sussman wrote Mental Illness and Creativity: A Neurological View of “The Tortured Artist” in 2007 in light of this very discussion. The very base of all argument is why. Why should “the tortured artist” not be perceived as some self obsessed, self involved, attention seeking vessel of creativity. Is there merit in madness, and what if the madness is merely an act?