Saturday, March 16, 2013

Do Poets Sleep?

The New York Times talks insomnia and poetry.

From the story...

Poets may not suffer from insomnia more than other people, but they seem more likely to write about it. For centuries, long before Thomas Edison (himself a famous insomniac who called his scientific team the “insomnia squad”) facilitated the insomnia of so many of us by helping to invent the electric light bulb, poets from a wide range of cultures have written about their wakeful, nocturnal anguish and ecstatic vision. In the eighth century, the Chinese poet Tu Fu, in a translation by Sam Hamill, pined, “Sleepless, memories of war betray me: / I am powerless against the world.” Patumanar, a poet of the Tamil period of Indian literature, writes (in a translation by A.K. Ramunujan), that “Even the far-flung world / has put aside its rages / for sleep. / Only I / am awake.”

Does the study linking insomnia to troubled breathing, which, as one article stated, challenges “the predominant theory of insomnia as a problem of ‘hyper-arousal,’ in which the body idles on high psychologically and physiologically,” change the way we think about and “read” insomniacal art? A dark night of the soul, heartache, remorse, guilt, desire, God-hunger — surely this, and not obstructed airways or a drop in oxygen levels, is the stuff of poetry.

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