Richard Wilbur is one of my favorite poets. This lovely remembrance by Christian Wiman articulates some of the reasons I love Wilbur so much. In short, for Richard Wilbur, creativity and productivity didn’t come from deep within the subconscious of the tortured artist, but from gratitude and wonder at a world he didn’t make. His gaze was outward, not inward.
What was revolutionary about Wilbur’s work, Wiman writes, is the light–in spite of the fact that Wilbur himself dealt with depression and addiction and the losses and hurts that we all deal with.
I recently spent a couple of hours at Ernest Hemingway’s house in Key West, Florida. Our tour guide lovingly told the stories of Hemingway’s drunkenness and self-indulgence and all the wreckage he left in his wake. I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if Hemingway–obviously a writer of towering ability–hadn’t spent so much of his creative energy on self-dramatization.
I know the story: that Hemingway (and all the other self-absorbed artists) needed the drama and the demons and the self-indulgence, that they wouldn’t have been able to create without all of it. I’m just not sure I believe it.