Register Wednesday | June 20 | 2018

Poets Are Manics

The poem state is manic: written as if it talks fast, talks much, talks an ear off; it grasps what it can, perhaps stays too long, but it is glitteringly present, evanescent, has the amiability of a high. But the real danger of the poem is the change it makes in its poet: convinced that the poem is transcribed from the muse, pure dictation, the poet is gulled into thinking that the writing will be lasting, will be a contribution, and the poet, heady, not yet coming down, has the manic state of his art: convinced, confident, poised on the brash and winningly charming. This is the most perilous point. The poem, really, has yet to speak, has just been born, or more likely aborted; yet the poet thinks that it is a thing of love, that it has a signature, a writ, and this can lead to fatal exposure: sending the damn precious out, past where the delusion can protect it.

Mania is transient: it always leads somewhere, but it leaves no trace. You wake up one morning, surprised at here; you wake up and wonder at the blur, the mess, at how to extricate; you wake up and the first inclination is to assess. Where am I? How am I? But the sponsor is madness, and the madness makes its own kind of sense, and that’s the sense that poets need: writing something when nothing is there, reaching deep and pulling something out. Ask the manic man what he’s doing, and he’ll be convincing though his story is unconvincing, he’s going wherever the moon takes him; the poet, too, is following the moon after the conclusion of his poem, and he’s not seeing by its light. Instead, he’s convinced the poem has its own light, when only rarely poems do. Like all fool poets post-composition, he wants the best for his poems, which means he wants them to do too much. The manic man does much, accomplishes much, but his work is ephemeral; ask him, when he wakes sober, how much he has done and it will be very little useful activity; what possessed him a day ago is the silliest frill, the most foolish errand; and the poet must go through this, must suffer the delusion, otherwise no poems would survive at all.

For in the maternity ward, all the fathers are proud and hopeful, but they have a basis for their feelings, having witnessed tangible miracles; if poets didn’t feel as they did, then they would resort to infanticide.

The manic man is turbulent, ricocheting from incident to incident, sashaying from cause to cause and not pondering effect; so the poet must be guided by an inscrutable force, and not honestly know if a difference has been made except in terms of faith, erring on the side of yes when there is a whole body of evidence that the truth is no, just as the manic man encounters others aware of his altered nature, the friends and acquaintances who provide him the feedback that he is not right; the poet is not right when he finishes a poem, he is a manic man.