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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Poetry and Pandemonium. By John von Daler

                     A poet and writer I knew on Langeland in the sixties used to come calling in a taxi, afraid as he was of anything and everything. He just drank himself a little cock-eyed, hired a car and went visiting. On these visits if the people he encountered did not suit him, his eyes would darken and he would mutter bitter words under his breath.

                He found me irritating, as I had grown up in the U.S.A., so it was only with a certain amount of coaxing that he would try to be civil. Women he liked better, just because they were female.
                We would sit listening to old jazz 78 records, sipping our beers, his eyes flashing red like the warning lights on an ambulance on the way from an accident to a hospital. The women ran back and forth toting good cheer. I think I often crawled into a sofa somewhere and tried just to hear the music.
                Why mention such a difficult person? Because these many years later I have read some of the stories he was writing at precisely that moment. They are very, very good: balanced, insightful, wise, almost everything he was not in person.
                So many of our greatest artists had difficulty achieving the order and insight of their works in their own lives. Think of Robert Frost, Miles Davis, Dylan Thomas, Marlon Brando, Gauguin, van Gogh, just to name a very disparate few. Really, I only remember encountering one biography of a great artist that establishes that person as totally friendly and balanced: Robert Louis Stevenson.
                Do people with muddled lives and difficult personalities project all the best they have into their works - and then have no good sense left with which to order real life? Is that why we revere their works, because of the almost unlifelike order and insight?

                I find it often is best to give the works a chance while forgetting their creator. Hmmm. That's pretty much what I think about the world, too.


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