Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Every poet is a thief

I was recently listening to U2's "The Fly" (from their 1991 Achtung Baby album) and drifting back to my first years of college. When the album came out (with the sound of four men chopping down a Joshua Tree, according to U2 singer Bono), I was taking a course in 20th century literature, reading Jerzy Kosinski, Toni Morrison, that sort of thing.

I look back on the course as being ridiculously ambitious, but at the time it seemed reasonable. I was thirsty for knowledge in those days, which was well timed; St. Petersburg Junior College's (Clearwater Campus) Humanities and English programs sprayed knowledge with a tight-squeezed garden hose. I'll never be able to thank those faculty members enough.

We were reading Sylvia Plath, watering a nascent feminist impulse while showing me what powerful poetry can do, and we were asked to present talks about how we interpreted our own selection of her work. I confirmed with the instructor, Sandra Kerns, about whether I could analyze one of Plath's poems using lyrics of "The Fly" as a sort of comparative lens. Thereafter I launched into one of my first attempts at rhetorical analysis, which led in part to what I do now for a living.

I don't remember the piece I selected or much of my presentation, but I still remember the excitement I felt when I was able to connect U2's lyrics - always buzzing in the background of my thoughts back then - to the sad and tragic life of Sylvia Plath. Apropos of nothing else than the memories of how college can work to light up the mind, here are some of those lyrics that spoke to me so vividly.
It's no secret that a conscience can sometimes be a pest
It's no secret ambition bites the nails of success
Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief
All kill their inspiration and sing about their grief
Odd, isn't it? These lyrics, bitter and ironic jabs at creativity, remind me of days when I was most clearly coming alive.

1 comment:

Exile said...

Actually, the lyric for The Fly is composed of quotes, mainly by Jenny Holzer. I don't find it odd, jabbing creativity in such way is creativity at its highest. Beauty of art ;) Thank you for the post :)