There is nothing as clenching as reading William Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury on a rainy afternoon while contemplating mortality in an office bereft of any ambiance resembling humanity. The preceding statement is, in fact, most likely untrue. It is, however, not a lie, as the experience was (and will be tomorrow, in fact) a physical phenomenon whereby I felt intense emotions that manifested themselves upon my person in the guise of shortness of breath, laughter, and a broad feeling of disassociation. Such are the vagaries of reading the finest work of a generational talent amidst desolation, most especially when the writing in question is a thirty year snapshot of a family’s slow putrefaction into obsolescence as experienced by said family’s autistic member.
There is nothing that reflects imbalance and a general sense of unease as a sudden urge to write bad poetry. Well, maybe there is something more than this, but I would not know it as the urge to write poetry is one that I associate with the darkest periods of my life. I have not written a poem in nigh upon six years, for two reasons. The first is that I realized at some point in 2007 that much of the poetry I have written over the years is not very good, and in fact could be classified as ‘dreck’. It was a humbling thing to acknowledge, but it helped me grow as a writer and as a man. Net gain: positive.
The second is that poetry is something I directly associate with depression, anxiety, and death. These are personal associations, unique to me, and I will attempt to resolve this at some point in the medium-term future. It is clear, however, that the relative stability I have forged in recent years is a major reason prose is my preferred rubric. To my concern, I began to write an extended and mediocre analogy about balance beams at 4:30 PM on a piece of cardboard (depicted above) with a pencil before I fully realized what was happening. The following is what resulted:
I was standing on a balance beam in summer camp
Muscles quaking to stave off a certain conclusion
Feet—these improbable levers—aching from tension, hanging on,
Stinging with anticipation of a hard landing.
There is so much to support in an instant
That a thought blacks out all else:
“Will they support me?”
A premonition: crunching sounds and the feeling of my
Right cheek resting on the concrete, cold and immutable to the touch.
Unthinking, I leaped, too quick for the surge of fear to take hold
And landed firm, the dull ache taking hold.
To be fair to myself, this is not ‘dreck’, per se. This is not a ‘good poem’, however, and it would be foolish of me or anyone else to think as much. There is nothing, though, that would indicate that this is the point. The poem is not the issue. The matter of concern is that it forced itself out of my person: my muse, run amok without direction or restraint, crafting mediocrity through an empty vessel of a human. It is as if Quentin Compson, “doomed prophet” of his clan, inhabited my person for an afternoon and in doing so relieved me of the various safeguards I have constructed to preclude total passivity in the face of onrushing creative urges.
There is nothing like reading Faulkner, in other words. I recommend the prose, but beware the poetry.