Sunday, April 08, 2007

Going Gentle Into That Good Night

It may be old news that poets die young, but many of the innovative American artists who have shaped the course of art history in America are now well into their 60s, 70s, and 80s. Think of

Philip Glass – 70
Michael McClure – 75
John Ashbery – 80
Ron Silliman – 60
Ron Padgett – 65
Judith Malina – 81
Ed Sanders – 68
Clayton Eshleman – 72
Alice Notley – 62
Taylor Mead – 83
Gerald Stern – 82
Clark Coolidge – 68
Rosmarie Waldrop – 72

Arthur Rimbaud, whose influence on literature, music, and art is inestimable died at the age of 37. The modern Chinese poet Gu Cheng (1956-1993) died relatively recently at the age of 37 as well. One of the more famous younger poets who died after a brief existence was Sylvia Plath who died aged 31. Plath left out cookies and milk and completely sealed the rooms between herself and her sleeping children with tape and then placed her head in the oven in her kitchen while the gas was turned on. The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas died at the age of 39 after drinking 27 successive straight Scotch whiskys at the White Horse tavern in Manhattan. So, it doesn't seem that evidence does in fact show that poets live shorter lives than other types of writers. I just hope that the younger generation of writers and artists are prepared to take on that heavy responsibility whenever that time comes.


Ron said...

I'm but a lad of 60, actually. Older than my dad lived to be by some 22 years,


Larry Sawyer said...

My mental math isn't the best. It's amazing how people are living longer than ever before in history. They say that 50 is the new 30.