Sunday, March 22, 2009

Literary Plath

Here's a tragic story. The son of poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes killed himself. Read here. What makes this story interesting is the concept of depression and how it rears its ugly head. Depression is something that I'm seriously worried about. It seems to affect a lot of creative people, including many writers. Recently writer David Foster Wallace committed suicide.

Frankly, one of the reasons I've become consumed with Buddhism is the very encouraged practice of meditation. I find it a very helpful tool in calming or changing thoughts. As a writer, I spend lots of time alone. I make up scenarios, sometimes dark. I know what its like to be consumed with morose thoughts.

When writer Iris Chang killed herself. I was bereft. Her book The Rape of Nanking was celebrated. She was seen as a promising historian and was a mother of a two year old son. On occasion, I know why I'll avoid writing. It's not that I'm lazy; I'm scared. I know the kind of mental challenge it requires to write deeply, to imagine the joys and pitfalls of a particular character.

I've been developing a short story about a young man tormented by his past, having to face memories and people he disliked. It's kicking my ass. What's funny it that I'm choosing to write short stories now, because it feels lighter than working on my third novel.

Ah, the writing life.


Cheryl said...

Sometimes writing something light in form but dark in content is easier than something as big and complex as a novel. So I say run with it.

Even though a lot of artists have suffered from depression, I think that more often that not, art is what helps them through, or at least what they do once they're back on your feet--not what causes it. (Likewise, being depressed won't make you creative, unfortunately.) Depression is its own beast, and it seems to prey on artists and non-artists alike.

Don Cummings said...

Oy with Depression!
I sometimes suffer from deep, (but thank goodness quick lived) despair. But in the last decade---mania has been more the affliction. Busy monkey minds are not happy monkey minds. I agree with you---I meditate almost every day. It's essential. A tonic. Keep at it.

tfcinnyc said...

This is very sad news (I’m too lazy to find the link, but the online version of the New York Times had a story with several writers, including Joyce Carol Oates and a couple of psychiatrists or psychologists, responding to the news and commenting on the continuing fascination with Sylvia Plath and offering some interesting takes on suicide in general). Thanks for pointing out that link to the article from the U.K. I’m not sure I agree with those who blamed Hughes for Plath’s suicide (my suspicion is that Plath’s volatile psyche was part of his attraction to her in the first place). I’m not a huge Ted Hughes fan, but I do find his poetry fascinating on some level, and the Birthday Letters volume that is ostensibly about his relationship with Sylvia Plath I think is a very fine collection. And Plath's poetry, of course, only has become more highly regarded since her death. The NYT somewhat dismissively suggested that her reputation has grown while those of some of her contemporaries (Anne Sexton and John Berryman – not to be morbid, but two other poetic suicides) have fallen. I’m not sure that I would dismiss Berryman or Sexton, but the NYT may be right. Anyway, I’m glad not all poets (and their kin) end their lives tragically.