I just finished reading 100 Essential Modern Poems by Women, which I enjoyed immensely. (Hmmmm. I see that I am drawing more and more towards poetry and less and less towards fiction. Could that little itch be telling me something?) It was a fantastic sampler for someone like me who is sadly, pitifully, underexposed to poetry. (Which is another blog topic in itself [everyone's underexposure to poetry], but I’m saving that up for the Red Brick Store blog, I think.)
Anyway, one thing that has been very unsettling to me as I have read about some prominent female poets is how really screwed up or unhappy so many of them are/were. It seems like some 80% or more of them had abusive upbringings, or lovers who killed themselves, or nervous breakdowns. What is UP with that? Which comes first—the poetry or the misery? And could I possibly be a decent poet, someday, without having a miserable life? Please?
Here’s an interesting quote from May Swenson who seems to have had a relatively happy life but who also happened to leave the church. As in the Mormon church. She says, “It is not for me—religion. It seems like redundancy for a poet” (p. 100). What? So the holy calling of poetry stands in the place of any organized worship? OK, I know that’s not what she was really saying. But it bugs. It bugs. (And of course I know that some of the best poetry ever written was written by very, very religious people. Like, say, Isaiah, Joseph Smith, Gerard Manley Hopkins, John Donne and some of our own LDS poets, many of whom can be read in my favorite poetry book, Discoveries.)