Myriad bits

In Xanadu did Khubla Khan

A stately pleasure dome decree:

Where Alph, the sacred river, ran

Through caverns measureless to man-

          Down to a sunless sea.


Hi, hi. I was trying to find information on Pliny the Younger’s garden yesterday, and one description made me feel that Coleridge must surely have visited. Maybe he took a jaunt up to Tuscany while he was acting as a British spy for his Majesty on the island of Malta. (true)

Poets- you read a poet you really like, they’re sort of a messed up lot. It’s weird how a person can act as a divining rod for universal truth, and put that down for posterity with such boldness and authority, but then be such a doofus in their personal life.

Well, look at them. Shakespeare- Shakespeare married a woman much older than him and essentially left her to go play theater, and- (speculatively) paw young men.

Emily Dickinson could not entice herself, most days, to leave the house.

Richard Brautigan got fried 12 times (‘electroconvulsive therapy’) essentially for throwing a rock through a police station window. He tried marriage a couple times, but it didn’t take. He ended up living alone for a time, and then shooting himself in the head. No one discovered his body for over a month.

Samuel Coleridge?  His portrait belies a certain weakness in the mouth. The Albatross was probably an apt personal metaphor. He early married a woman he didn’t love, and seemed to spend a lifetime disappointing the family they created together. He took turns trying to make good and send support to his family, and lapsing into laudanum soaked reveries of scholarly exploration, poverty and retreat. His appearance was so haggard on one occasion, that Wordsworth’s sister Dorothy actually mentioned how shocked she was in one of her letters to William, who was a poet/friend (temporarily) to Coleridge.

Why do so many writers, poets especially, seem to struggle so much with basic, everyday life: Marriage, work, and personal relationships?  It seems that sensitivity which can inform amazing poetry doesn’t serve a person positively in other arenas. Taken through this lens, Thoreau’s Walden is one big, beautiful excuse written by a man who really couldn’t handle the daily tow.

I don’t really want to focus on the suicidal ones. Just the overall trend of botchedness- does it say something profound about human nature that those individuals most able to discern and translate it with clarity are the least likely to be able to tolerate it?

These are just mumblings and musings. I found a little passage in one of Barbara Kingsolver’s essays which I will leave off with, because the perfection of her metaphor caught my fancy:


“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the race,” Percy Shelley said. They are also its margin of safety, like the canaries that used to be carried into mines because of their sensitivity to toxic gases; their silence can be taken as a sign of imminent danger.  -Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tucson





Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

5 thoughts on “Myriad bits

  1. Strange coincidence, finding your myriad bits contain some thoughts I was having yesterday regarding creative or artistic people and how messed up many of them are/can be. And wondering why.

    Wonderful piece ending with a wonderful quote.

  2. I’ll be back later when I don’t have to type on an iPod keyboard. But yeh, Keats, Hopkins, Charles olson, even larkin all seemed to have some major life issues. Lucky for me I’m not like any of those dudes. Heh.

  3. I think poets aren’t afraid to take the blinders off the rest of us wear to protect us. Once they do, perhaps they wish they hadn’t. There is no putting the genie back in the bottle and they end up messed up.

  4. Wasn’t one of Shakespeare’s devices that the mad could see things as they really were? (I was thinking of Ophelia in Hamlet).

    Maybe great metaphors, similes, and allusions need a little madness?

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