Just received Hank Lazer's new book Lyric and Spirit. For some reason, I was drawn to an interview in the back, which I enjoyed very much. Near the end of the interview, Chris Mansel asks:
Where do you suppose the self-destructiveness trait comes from that occurs in so many writers?
Here's are a few sections from Lazer's answer:
"A writer, particularly a poet, places himself in an odd position in relation to dominant cultural value. A poet decides to value certain kinds of somewhat aimless, impractical, non-money-making activities. Furthermore, he's apt to be pursuing a rather elusive mode of language--not necessarily the direct, communicative, "useful," commercially manipulative kind of language skill that society readily appreciates and rewards (in advertising, in journalism, and in other modes of persuasive and/or manipulative writing). So, what he's doing with his time is aberrant--hard to explain. And yet, if he is really engaged in a serious and profound relationship to poetry, he does have certain sporadic validating experiences--a sense of connection to a longstanding human enterprise of considerable wisdom, joy, and pleasure. The self-destructiveness may arise as a gesture of anger and frustration, arising from a sense that one's primary life activity is not appreciated or understood or respected. The self-destructiveness becomes an act oddly complicit with that ignoring and marginalizing by the society at large, while it is also a somewhat desperate call for attention and significance.
Society at large--at least here in the US--establishes an interestingly ambivalent role toward the poet/artist. Most of the time, it's business as usual: scorn, neglect, derision, lack of value. But then there is the flip-side: a compensatory romantic larger-than-life version (preferably made for the movies) of The Artist. This Artist is one who is--big surprise--too sensitive and volatile for this world..."
"This intuitive, somewhat childish artist figure... is exactly what the society at large needs to comfort itself. That is, that being an artist is a big mistake, though a grand enough mistake--entertaining enough--that we can witness the story every couple of years in a big Hollywood production. And then we can return the rest of our days to ignoring such individuals in our midst..."
"Personally, I find it hard enough to work with the nature and complexity of making poetry. No need to pursue additional clichéd personal drama (and self-destructiveness) just to make the story conform to a movie script. The real drama is one that can barely be seen: an internal drama of consciousness, the drama of wrestling with the issues, questions, and realizations of making the poem. You don't see those moments dramatized in the movies. You see the scenes of drunken abuse; you don't see the scenes of someone sitting in a chair, staring out the window, writing down three words."
Lazer's new e-book First Portions is also available (for free) from Ahadada.