03rd Jan 2021

Going insane is very popular these days, and it frightens me to see so many young people flirting with the idea of it. They think that going crazy will turn them into better poets. That’s just not true at all! Insanity is a terrible thing … a terrible thing! I’ve seen it first-hand in some of my friends, and it is not the “poetic" sort of thing that these young people seem to think it is. John Clare did not write glorious poetry while he was in the asylum, I’m glad to say. I’ve known a Marianne Moore extremely well over a long time. Perhaps I’ll tell my students about her some time—to show them what can be drawn from such a relatively limited life as she has had. I think it’s important that my students start to know some of these things. They have such narrow and sometimes destructive ideas about what it is to be a poet. I’ve been thinking lately that I really should say something to them about all of this. It’s a very serious matter. • Conversations with Elizabeth Bishop

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