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Graham Greene: I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint manage to escape the madness…

November 10, 2009

“Writing is a form of therapy: sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic fear which is inherent in the human situation.” Graham Greene

Maxine Kumin says that writing poetry enabled Anne Sexton to endure life for as long as she lived. One who agrees might point to this poem as proof:

Wanting to Die
by Anne Sexton
Since you ask, most days I cannot remember.
I walk in my clothing, unmarked by that voyage.
Then the almost unnameable lust returns.

Even then I have nothing against life.
I know well the grass blades you mention,
the furniture you have placed under the sun.

But suicides have a special language.
Like carpenters they want to know which tools.
They never ask why build.

Twice I have so simply declared myself,
have possessed the enemy, eaten the enemy,
have taken on his craft, his magic.

In this way, heavy and thoughtful,
warmer than oil or water,
I have rested, drooling at the mouth-hole.

I did not think of my body at needle point.
Even the cornea and the leftover urine were gone.
Suicides have already betrayed the body.

Still-born, they don't always die,
but dazzled, they can't forget a drug so sweet
that even children would look on and smile.

To thrust all that life under your tongue!--
that, all by itself, becomes a passion.
Death's a sad Bone; bruised, you'd say,

and yet she waits for me, year after year,
to so delicately undo an old wound,
to empty my breath from its bad prison.

Balanced there, suicides sometimes meet,
raging at the fruit, a pumped-up moon,
leaving the bread they mistook for a kiss,

leaving the page of the book carelessly open,
something unsaid, the phone off the hook
and the love, whatever it was, an infection.

No, I’m not suicidal! Melancholic, yes.
I do know that writing helps me sort through my experiences.
And I know that I wish I’d had a moment to do some writing
to figure out how to spend a few more days in Portugal
and to have attended the Wine Academy of Spain’s Wine Futures
event in Rioja on Thurs and Friday of this week…

3 Comments leave one →
  1. JEW permalink
    November 11, 2009 3:57 pm

    From someone who is such a joy and inspiration to others, we can appreciate a bit of melancholia too. =)

  2. November 11, 2009 5:36 pm

    Aw shucks, that’s very sweet, thank you so much…

    I feel like I’m in 2 places at once–here, with my family & students, and there, in my dreams and desires….

  3. JEW permalink
    November 12, 2009 10:58 pm

    Gwen needs a retreat.

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