Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Heartbreak Artist

I had a horrific experience with a bunch of off-off Broadway actors some years ago, and I wrote poetry about it, and about one actor in particular, for whom I carried a torch. Although it hardly seems real now and I don't know why I conceived such adoration for someone who is objectively not worthy, in hindsight.

I found it very helpful to write poetry and I wrote a monologue about that.

It turns out that it isn't only poetry that helps you handle pain, as this NYTimes article says:
The scientific research on the benefits of so-called expressive writing is surprisingly vast. Studies have shown that writing about oneself and personal experiences can improve mood disorders, help reduce symptoms among cancer patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory.
Now researchers are studying whether the power of writing — and then rewriting — your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness.
The concept is based on the idea that we all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves. But sometimes our inner voice doesn’t get it completely right. Some researchers believe that by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health.
It may sound like self-help nonsense, but research suggests the effects are real.'
The past 9 years - as long as I've had this blog - have been the most difficult of my life, with the death of my father, and an operation for cancer, and horrible jobs and financial worries and an anxiety disorder and depression and betrayal and the end of a long relationship - and no relationship to take its place but instead dreary years of unrequited love and unfulfillable longing and the realization that I'm at an age where this romantic/sexual situation is not likely to improve and in fact things will most likely only go severely downhill from here.

I wonder how how much worse I would be if I hadn't had this blog and poetry to help a little. I mean I've been seeing a therapist for over a year now, so it isn't like I've handled it all so well, but I really wonder if I would have killed myself in utter despair by now but for this blog. Although never say never.

I did find it especially odd that the actors I had a falling out with, and their friends who are also involved in the arts, decided that it would be a good idea to attack me for writing poetry. First through a Facebook page, and then through a response to my essay on the therapeutic uses of art.

I found this especially odd because one of the two people in the above screen cap conversation had a girlfriend who wrote poetry.

The guy, whom I'll call D, with the poet girlfriend, started off high in my estimation, especially for the way he treated his girlfriend, and I recall saying something to him along the lines of "you must be the best boyfriend ever." And she was certainly a loyal girlfriend, for when I criticized him a few years ago, she posted furious responses on this blog - which I declined to post in part because some of her comments were fairly libelous. I still have them in my moderation queue all these years later.

But when I heard they broke up I wasn't surprised. Rather as I came to know a little more about D and his girlfriend, whom I'll call X, the more I realized that X was not temperamentally suited to be part of the circle that D travelled in. I knew it couldn't last.

Now mind you, I can't say I especially like this woman - this is someone who referred to me in her comment tirade as a "theater terrorist" for criticizing her then-boyfriend's work and for pointing out that certain independent theater publishers favored the work of male playwrights over female playwrights. Her response was over-the-top, but at least it was honest. Her boyfriend and his clique would never be that emotionally honest, although they can certainly fake it. D and I exchanged heated emails related to this incident and in the end D apologized for injuries past and for a split second I thought maybe things were OK between us - but not a week went by before I found him trashing me on Facebook. Completely phony and untrustworthy. But X is not a phony, and it was thanks to X's honesty that I discovered how I was being smeared by her boyfriend's gang, including some legally actionable activities - although I have declined to take any legal action thus far. 

I would say that X has much more the soul of an artist than D - she is open-hearted, while D and his circle are closed-hearted, for all their artistic affectations. 

And now I see that X has a tumblr of several months standing where she writes mostly poetry. And her subject matter is much like mine was, when I was hot and heavy in the sonnetry from 2008 - 2011 - about romantic/sexual attraction and heartbreak. And like me, she never refers to the man who broke her heart by name in her poems, but because I know some of their history, it's easy enough to figure out when she is talking about him.

Formalistically we are very different - I adhered pretty strictly to the discipline of the Shakespearean sonnet, while her work, save a few sonnets, is the standard contemporary free-form verse, indistinguishable from brief essays except for some word play and non-standard sentence formatting. It's considered the proper way to write poetry these days - my adherence to tradition made me a complete outlier in the world of poetry.

Nevertheless I do appreciate many of her poems and empathize - we are all looking for magic, and many people online are inscrutable, and some people do leave scars no matter how we try to forget or imagine sending the pain to the moon.

I feel you sister.