For those of you are in need of some refreshment for your poetic soul I recommend reading Live through this: on creativity and self-destruction. A copy of which I picked up at the Edinburgh Independent and Radical Book Fair.
Live through this is an anthology of essays by American women about their creativity and how it has helped them in the various trials life has thrown at them. The women in the volume have lived through drug addiction, domestic abuse, grief, chemotherapy and mental illness, and come from a variety of creative backgrounds. Therefore although there are poets there are also illustrators, performance artists and graphic novelists.
One of the stories that struck me the most was by poet Nicole Blackman. She recounts how although not suffering from an eating disorder she wrote a poem about anorexia. Subsequently she received a deluge of correspondence from young women, and men, all of whom had recognised something of themselves in her work. Impressively Blackman responded to everyone who wrote to her. With some of them she began to enter into correspondence, and some of the unhappy, lonely and ultimately angry young people she talked to were able to take more control of their lives.
What ultimately impressed me about the book, and what Blackman encapsulates, was the strong sense that the creative impulse can help to save us, or heal us, from the destructive impulse. Of course, not on it’s own. You can not simply say “I write” or “I paint” and leave it at that hoping some magic will happen. However for all these women their particular creativity was a major support in dealing with the various challenges their lives have thrown at them.
In the poetry world so much can appear to hinge on building a reputation. The result of which can sometimes be an unhealthy preoccupation with the self. Personally I found it a joy to discover that creating can be a healing process, not just for the creator, but for the audience too.
Continuing on this theme next week poet and editor of Calderwood Press, Colin Will writes a guest post about his work at Carstairs Hospital.