Are you a tormented genius? Do you suffer for your art?
Here’s what Maine poet Alice N. Persons has to say about that.
CALL ME BOURGEOIS
by Alice N. Persons
After watching “Pollock”, with Ed Harris
as the tormented genius,
I couldn’t sleep,
thinking about suffering and art.
Should I feel a little shallow
because I’m not a drunk or a slave
to drugs, I pay my bills, like to cook,
and no believer in my genius supports me?
When I have a bad day,
instead of waking up fiercely hung over
and filthy on a Manhattan street,
at the end of this trying day
I do the dull, comforting routines —
let the dogs out, fill the cat food bowl,
floss, check email, and usually (not always)
behave like a grownup
who happens to be a poet.
I don’t like to wear black all the time.
Bad poets performing their work embarrass me.
I’m all for people expressing themselves,
but I also want them to shower,
and they had better not turn over any
Thanksgiving dinner tables in my vicinity.
Pain makes art
but so do pleasure and normalcy.
Sometimes the quietest person in the band
produces the purest and most lovely sound.
Call me amused, and you can certainly call me bourgeois. I’m with Alice on this one. 🙂
I admit when I was younger, the starving, suffering artist trope appealed to me. After I read the Beat Poets, I wanted to go On the Road with Jack Kerouac. The thought of hanging out in dark cafés with beatniks wearing black berets snapping their fingers sounded real cool, daddy-o.
The only thing that mattered was the art, man. Living, breathing, and making it. Who needed food when you could live off creative vapors?
We grow up hearing about artistic geniuses whose lives were full of high drama. They’re often depressed, anxious, schizophrenic, suicidal, or delusional, many of them addicted to alcohol or other drugs. And we wonder — if their lives had been more “normal,” ho-hum, pedestrian — would they have been able to create the works they did?
Abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock, for one, was an alcoholic who was diagnosed as clinically neurotic (speculation he may have been bipolar). Prone to drinking binges and drunken stupors, he was largely reclusive and had a volatile personality. His wife Lee Krasner (also an artist) had a huge influence on his work and career. Pollock benefited from Krasner’s extensive knowledge of and training in modern art, and she also introduced him to many critics, collectors, and other artists. Most important, she believed in him, and he implicitly trusted her judgment and opinions.