Acrylic on canvas
20" x 16"
inspired the poem "An American Poet"
An American Poet
I envied her for her perfect poetry, but I envied her even more when she stopped
writing. She stopped, just like that. After getting the prize. Who does that? You’re a
genius, I would tell her, being tormented is normal. I couldn’t imagine being her, such
brilliance, such exhaustion, she could barely make it out of bed. Or another way she put it:
I wish I could squeeze the marshmallow out of the camel.
I would say, Stay in bed, or get out of bed, what’s the difference? She didn’t need
to have a job, due to the prize. So she had all the time in the world to be silent.
She used to stay up all night, heard voices. The voices spoke in perfect poetry,
she just needed to write fast.
She had an epiphany one night alone in her apartment, she told me, when she
felt the Hand of Blake. And that was the night she stopped writing. What is the point of reaching five people in Tribeca, she said to me. She needed a stadium to preach to! So:
she came up with a plan: she would start writing poems again, at least for a little while
longer, and then write stories and then a novel and then write the definitive history of
quantum biology as it relates to pre-Christian theology and she’d... etcetera etcetera
etcetera etcetera etcetera.
She moved back to her hometown, got on disability, and defined herself as
someone without a past and started a hedge fund. A success, by all accounts. She
dropped all contacts -- with me, with all her other friends. Now what I have is this, her
last letter to me.
November 6, 1977
(quote): I feel that I am now, well, I’ve now been given, bequeathed, this heady
gift, what I live for, and in that state of eternal soft bubbling anxiety, that before I’ve
known only when in the throes of love-longing, that gift is that I feel I’ll someday be able to write with the near mathematical accuracy of a musician -- an algebra of passion. But I sometimes have flashes of Ouspenskian paranoia that some external herd instinct will drag me down.
— © Josepha Gutelius