Monday, 28 January 2013

Creativity, pain & an owl hooting

In the current New Statesman, TS Eliot Prize-shortlisted poet Julia Copus - who suffers from endometriosis - makes the point that there is more made of the connection between creativity and mental illness than creativity and physical illness. The link with the physical is just as significant, she says. She speaks specifically of the link between creativity and excruciating pain: 'But always after the pain comes the gradual, miraculous release from pain, and with it the sense that my stay in in that strange other realm to which illness transports us is by no means over'. Severe pain takes you to a place where you can think only of the pain and nothing else. From my own experience, the end of the pain would be the beginning of perfection: in my severe days, I used to make atheistic deals with God, please make me better,  I will never complain again about anything. I had almost constant brain tumour headaches/a fist of pain in my spine and when I walked across the kitchen floor I felt I was going uphill. Copus describes how Matisse came to painting from law after a bout of appendicitis. His mother brought him art supplies while he convalesced. He left law and became a painter.

There is also the being ill and observing, as I noted in my review of Kjersti A Skomsvold's The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am - you may be too ill to physically write but you can still observe, and shelve the observations away. You have  an enforced stillness, an enforced witnessing, that you simply would not have were you not ill. Many of Helen Fleet's observations in The State of Me are my own,  from those days of  'exile' that longterm illness brings.

And I'm sure there's more fiction/drama where the central character is mentally ill rather than physically ill. As I said in a previous post (towards the end), perhaps mentally ill characters are seen as more colourful, they are more likely to behave 'badly'. If you are physically ill you are dull and boring, not taking part. Or you die.

There has been an owl hooting the last few nights, at first I thought it was a fox shrieking, but it is definitely twittwoo. I discovered that this is in fact two tawny owls, the female goes twit and the male replies twoo. I love this, I had no idea.


Mim said...

A graceful essay--enforced stillness, tawny owls, terrible pain, poet, etc. You've brought them together, Nasim!
. . .

All the best from South Beach,

nmj said...

Thsnk you, Mim!