As the poem progresses through its demanding formal twists a sestina repeats a prescribed series of end words six times , the absence of parents in the domestic tableau becomes glaringly obvious—even if the poem never says as much. It was finished after Lota died, which, Marshall notes, was nearly 17 years into their relationship:. Bishop and Lowell are ideal vehicles for biographers hoping to examine the interplay between creativity and suffering. The question she too often skirts is how a particular wounding event became a poem.
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The answer lies in the tortured hours Bishop spent not writing and then, once she finally got started, drafting and redrafting until a poem found the virtuosic form that would contain its urgent emotions. Jamison blurs the artistic process too. But he also spoke about having to edit what he wrote when manic.
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Jamison cites studies that show poets are more likely to be bipolar than the rest of us. Yet she leaves the reader to puzzle over why. But Bishop is the more original poet, and nearly 60 years after Life Studies , her challenging irony, her plainspoken tone, and her resigned clarity sound as fresh as ever. Meanwhile, the self-revealing mode that he helped catalyze is by now so thoroughly assimilated into American poetry as to seem staid, unimaginative, even retrograde. This view of Lowell is underscored by an insightful introduction by the poet and critic Katie Peterson to New Selected Poems.
His poems about being bipolar, Jamison understands, are spectacularly unsentimental, indeed almost dreary, in an era when other poets writing about depression Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton tended to sensationalize the experience. Ultimately what makes a confessional poem good is not the frisson of revelation but the drama of its voicing—its persistent freshness as an artifact, a verbal creation. We want to hear what you think about this article.
Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters theatlantic. Jules Julien. Upon an internet search on the issue, I came to find he additionally opened up about feeling depressed and insecure on his Instagram page. Perhaps part the result of working in the mental health field with a personal interest in pop culture, I am made constantly aware of the various actors and musicians who share their mental health struggles , or who have their struggles posthumously shared for them. While this is undoubtedly a step in the right direction for raising awareness, erasing the stigma against mental illness, and promoting early identification and treatment, the constant barrage of newsfeeds and tweets can become numbing.
In between his hilarious impersonations, for which he has gained fame and acclaim; insights on race relations; and general commentary on his own life; Charlotte, North Carolina where he was performing ; and society, he referenced a recent Huffington Post interview in which he discussed his struggles with depression and suicidal ideation as an adolescent. He alluded to being relentlessly bullied and alienated as a kid. Jay was apparently overweight until about the age of 17 and credits his relationship with his mother as the primary protective factor during this time; as she was aware of the potentially self-destructive path he was contemplating in order to cope with the social alienation.
He then went on to mock all the publicized efforts to end bullying, making the case that we should actually condone bullying because it led to the likes of people such as himself, who rose above it, in spite of it, and knock the ignorant bullies to their rightful place in the world…Or, he noted, the victims go on to be suicidal. Many artists have had aversive life experiences and presumably used humor, art, or acting as an escape, coping mechanism, and method for gaining mastery and self-expression. The timeliness of the comedy show reiterated the importance of the topic, and here I am pecking away.
Then there is the intersection of creativity and the lifestyle associated with those who dedicate themselves to creative pursuits. It becomes a chicken or egg debate since the variables are so correlated and self-perpetuating: an artistic mind might shun the more traditional standard of living, or the traditional standard of living may shun an artistic mind. Celebrity, being another factor, potentially exposes artists to things like constant public scrutiny, paradoxically coupled with a sense of invulnerability—and in some cases, ahem, godliness—and provides access to indulgences such as illicit drugs.
You could span this theory out to other professions and pursuits. There is no question that the way we spend our time and what we value reflects some degree of mental health. Similarly, there undoubtedly exists a link between propensities for thinking in that uninhibited tangential way which provides fertile ground for creative ingenuity and the flight of thought and emotional volatility that can underlie some mental health disorders, including addiction. Again, as with most things related to forming a causal association in social science, there is an interplay between nature and nurture.
Those who tend toward creative pursuits and even fame, may have a different neuronal architecture; less myelin perhaps? Passed down genetically by their creatively endowed forefathers and foremothers, artists may generally possess personalities which are inherently less bridled and more unstable than the rest of us. They may also be exposed to or seek out environments or experiences which perpetuate or exacerbate these traits.
However, many creators also had harsh early life experiences. It is possible in these cases that creativity is tapped into as a form of coping and resilience research shows that expressive writing increases immune system functioning, and emerging research on posttraumatic growth suggests people can turn adversity into creative growth , or that these experiences alter brain functioning in a way that provides for a unique perspective.
Fine line between genius and madness, scientists find
Latent inhibition is linked with dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with the reward-motivation system in our bodies. The role of dopamine is important in the creative process in that pleasure is derived from the openness to experience and identifying connections and relationships, and thus is reinforced when it is pursued. Presumably, artists have reduced latent inhibition to the extent that they are able to see something as novel, or appreciate the novelty of something, even despite being exposed to it multiple times.
This is key to creative cognition in that reduced latent inhibition allows the brain to see innumerable connections and applications between inputs, and opens the floodgates on access to information. However, reduced latent inhibition can also be a slippery slope. While it can open the doors for creative thinking, not having an efficient way of attending and responding to incoming information could also lead to the cognitive storm of disorganized and overwhelming information and emotion.
In the case of mental illness, reduced latent inhibition might make it impossible to filter out irrelevant or useless information—potentially leading to cognitive and emotional lability, disorganization, and fatigue. Therefore latent inhibition may illustrate one threshold between creativity and mental illness, or at least why there is a relationship between the two.
This relationship is likely moderated through protective intellectual and cognitive capacities such as executive functioning skills i.
1. Biographical Overview Sylvia Plath (based on Hayman)
Some artists seem to produce their greatest work when they are reportedly in the throes of mental illness, addiction, or hardship; while others struggle with both the quality and quantity when they are not well. For example, Tom Waits, who is now a teetotaler, is making some of the best music of his life; while in my opinion, Ryan Adams made far more interesting and compelling music when he was strung out and depressed—not to be an endorsement of either, but just to make a point….
So are great artists really just people who are walking the tightrope between mental illness and genius? I think many artists have organically found creativity as a way of coping with their anxieties. I feel that most people if exposed to enough stress during particularly vulnerable periods of life and the accumulation of other risk factors including a genetic predisposition could become or at least look mentally ill. If artists begin with an underlying anxiety or propensity for self-doubt, and channel that into creative efforts to thwart this, the fame and adoration can be puzzling and unnerving.
They pursue authenticity through their art, yet have a larger than life and photo-shopped version of themselves reflected back at them. Perhaps this results in some of the more narcissistic, depressive, or antisocial tendencies of celebrities. Some have speculated Dylan exaggerated the extensiveness of the injuries from the accident in order to gain some reprieve.
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Kurt Cobain expressed his disdain for celebrity, and his meteoric rise to fame is cited as a major trigger to his eventual self-destruction. A similar story can be found in Elliot Smith, one of my favorite artists. Smith killed himself via knife through the heart, and like Cobain was not an aimless musician, but prolifically talented and likely would not have minded some recognition for his tenacious work.
However, like many artists, he was not temperamentally suited for fame. He was insecure, self-doubting, and found the fame to be incongruent with his aspirations as an artist.
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