Drinking Still The Demons …


“The idea that creative endeavor and mind-altering substances are entwined is one of the great pop-intellectual myths of our time. The four twentieth-century writers whose work is most responsible for it are probably Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, and the poet Dylan Thomas. They are the writers who largely formed our vision of an existential English-speaking waste-land where people have been cut off from one another and live in an atmosphere of emotional strangulation and despair. These concepts are very familiar to most alcoholics; the common reaction to them is amusement. Substance-abusing writers are just substance abusers — common garden-variety drunks and druggies, in other words. Any claims that the drugs and alcohol are necessary to dull a finer sensibility are just the usual self-serving bullshit. I’ve heard alcoholic snowplow drivers make the same claim, that they drink to still the demons. It doesn’t matter if you’re James Jones, John Cheever, or a stewbum snoozing in Penn Station; for an addict, the right to the drink or drug of choice must be preserved at all costs. Hemingway and Fitzgerald didn’t drink because they were creative, alienated, or morally weak. They drank because it’s what alkies are wired up to do. Creative people probably do run a greater risk of alcoholism and addiction than those in some other jobs, but so what? We all look pretty much the same when we’re puking in the gutter.”

~ Stephen King. “On Writing”



Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them — if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. Its a beautiful, reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.

J. D. Salinger


The Writing Life …

Sometimes it’s great, and sometimes it’s shit.

These are the things all the great philosophers

Just won’t tell you flat out about life. 

So you just keep moving, keep living, keep breathing

And you keep writing-creating because that’s what you do

And that’s who you are.

There are no magical voices to guide

You except your own.

Make it count.


~ R.M. Engelhardt


“Poetry presupposes an inspired knowledge of man’s sensuous and spiritual nature.  Smithcraft—for the smith was also carpenter, mason, shipwright, and toolmaker—presupposes an inspired knowledge of how to transform lifeless material into active forms.  No ancient smith would have dared to proceed without the aids of medicine and poetry.  The charcoal used on his forge had been made, with spells, at a certain time of the year from timber of certain sacred trees; and the leather of the forge bellows, from the skin of a sacred animal ritually sacrificed. Before starting a task, he and his assistant were obliged to purify themselves with medicines and lustrations, and to placate the Spites which habitually crowd around forge and anvil.  If he happened to be forging a sword, the water in which it was to be tempered must have magical properties—May dew, or spring water in which a virgin princess had washed her hair.  The whole work was done to the accompaniment of poetic spells.

Such spells matched the rhythm of the smith’s hammers; and these were of unequal weight.
A sledge hammer was swung by the assistant; the smith himself managed the lighter hammer. To beat out hot metal successfully, one must work fast and follow a prearranged scheme.
The smith with his tongs lays the glowing lump of iron on the anvil, then touches with his hammer the place where the sledge blow is to fall; next he raps on the anvil the number of blows required.  Down comes the sledge; the smith raps again for another blow, or series of blows.  Experience teaches him how many can be got in while the iron is still hot.  So each state of every process had its peculiar metre, to which descriptive words became attached; and presently the words found their own tunes … Nor did the smith … let caprice rule the number and shape of ornaments that he introduced into his work.  Whether he was forging a weapon, or a piece of armour, or a tool, or a cauldron, or a jewelled collar, every element in the design had a magical significance.”

~ Robert Graves, from his essay “Harp, Anvil, Oar” in The Structure of Verse, edited by Harvey Gross (The Ecco Press, 1979)

un-art and poetry to mere literality

un-art and poetry to mere literality


And he knew also that the duty of all art lay in this sort of truth, lay in the self-perceptive finding and proclaiming of truth, the duty which has been laid on the artist, so that the soul, realizing the great equilibrium between the ego and the universe, might recover herself in the universe, perceiving in this self-recognition that the deepening of the ego was an increase of substance in the universe, in the world, especially in humanity, and even though this doubled growth was only a symbolic one, bound from the beginning to the symbolization of the beautiful, to that of the beautiful boundary, even though it were but a symbolic perception, it was precisely by this means that it was enabled to widen the inner and outer boundaries of existence to new reality, even though these boundaries might not be crossed, widening them not merely to a new form but to the new content of reality which they enclosed, in which the deepest secret of reality, the secret of correlation was revealed, the mutual relation existing between the realities of the self and the world, which lent the symbol the precision of rightness and exalted it to be the symbol of truth, the truth-bearing correlation from which arose every creation of reality, pressing on through level after level, penetrating toward, groping toward the unattainable dark realms of beginning and ending, pushing on toward the inscrutable divinity in the universe, in the world, in the soul of one’s fellow-men, pushing on toward that ultimate spark of the divine, that secret, which, ready to be disclosed and to be awakened, could be found everywhere, even in the soul of the most degraded —, this, the disclosure of the divine through the self-perceptive knowledge of the individual soul, this was the task of art, its human duty, its perceptive duty and therefore its reason for being, the proof of which was art’s nearness to death, and its duty, since only in this nearness might art become real, only thus unfolding into a symbol of the human soul; verily this he knew.

But he knew also that the beauty of the symbol, were it ever so precise in its reality, was never its own excuse for being, that whenever such was the case, whenever beauty existed for its own sake, there art was attacked at its very roots, because the created deed then came to be its own opposite, because the thing created was then suddenly substituted for that which creates, the empty form for the true content of reality, the merely beautiful for the perceptive truth, in a constant confusion, in a constant cycle of change and reversion, an inbound cycle in which renewal was no longer possible, in which nothing more could be enlarged, in which there was nothing more to be discovered, neither the divine nor the abandoned, nor the abandoned in human divinity, but in which there was only intoxication with empty forms and empty words, whereby art through this lack of discrimination and even of fidelity, was reduced to un-art, and poetry to mere literality; verily, this he knew, knew it painfully.

The Death of Virgil, Hermann Broch


“Describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty – describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the Things around you, the images from your dreams, and the objects that you remember. If your everyday life seems poor, don’t blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is not poverty and no poor, indifferent place. And even if you found yourself in some prison, whose walls let in none of the world’s sounds – wouldn’t you still have your childhood, that jewel beyond all price, that treasure house of memories? Turn your attentions to it. Try to raise up the sunken feelings of this enormous past; your personality will grow stronger, your solitude will expand and become a place where you can live in the twilight, where the noise of other people passes by, far in the distance. And if out of this turning-within, out of this immersion in your own world, poems come, then you will not think of asking anyone whether they are good or not. Nor will you try to interest magazines in these works: for you will see them as your dear natural possession, a piece of your life, a voice from it. A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity.”

~ Rainier Maria Rilke