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.

The Big Break

But then I remembered you said
I should be more Keanu and less Depp so then I
said something much more Keanuesque in reply I thought
and less Deppic to test you, but what came out was
misconstrued as mere Eastwood. Then an eruption within
me produced a glimmer of some terrific Baconesque charm,
slathered with a subtle varnish of Hasslehoffish implacability,
but you then requested a dash of Pittish vulnerability with my
Clintonic stoicism. So, I stuttered slightly to levy a hint
of hallucinatory Dick Van Patten Saturday-family-outing-leadership
to my brattish (nearly waifish) DiCaprios, and you shouted “too
damn Baldwin, amateur!” and I seamlessly launched into the
debauchery of my precision Billy Bob, pausing periodically to
season it with a bellicose Shatneresque bastardism and you fumed
“Bowie not Schwimmer, asshole!” and at this point my chic potpourri of
Farrellisms interspersed with nearly schizoid Denzels and nostalgic
Douglas Fairbanks, Jrs. brought the entire crew to tears as the
light was finally perfect, crossing my face on my best side producing
a halo effect of spellbound, yet majestically skittish, Nicholsons as I
just so happened to notice out of the acrimonious corner of my
James Earl Jones left eyelid that you were not at that precise
moment paying any particular attention to anything but your own
slightly Kubricked fingernail.