a speed-written essay about insanity and creativity

Real and expressible creativity (as I see it) may be compared to Thomas Mann's 'The Last Bead Game'. Residing in forms of what might be termed 'abacus visualisation', it relies always on logic foremost; the initial stroke of creative power being merely an 'entrance' into genuine creation, which, although perhaps chaotic at root, can only derive real understanding when moved towards a mathematical partnership of chaos amd original creative impulse. Numbers, of course, control much of the world's order, and this fact can only serve to prove that nobody can survive life without sacrificing much creativity to mathematical quiddity.

Mathematics, perhaps, then, lies under all real and expressible creativity because it guides the form of all creative intimation: even madcap comedy as a creative form is guided by logic, otherwise it would simply be far too out of this world for people to latch on to, dealing then in stage imagery and verbal craziness of such a far out nature as to deny all potential empathy to its audience. The same applies to poetry, regardless of how much of an expression of modernity's mad decline it may hope to be; otherwise poems such as T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland, for example, would come across as warped baby noises rather than intellect put to the use of deliberated chaos. The Wasteland is, of course, a very great poem indeed which derives its quintessence from a poetical scrutiny of the insane city. Even lunatical genius rock-poets, such as the now dead Jim Morrison, deal in creative chaos being subjugated to a higher form of chaos, as expressed through intellect rather than purely crazed impulse. Indeed, rock-poetry as a poetic medium always strives to express insanity in a manner of intellectual versification that shows up the realities behind mankind's general derision of that insanity in the first place. A good example of this sort of intellectualised insanity at work in rock-poetry is to be found in both Jim Morrison's Lorca-inspired Celebration of the Lizard (where colliding images of mysticism and urban disaster correlate to create a deliberate sense of madness) and also in much of the Canadian rock-poetry work of Bill Bisset, whose major works dealt in drug-crazed dialect in order to make a clear representation of madness beyond any real control other than in the shape of structured words.

Another point to be made about real and expressible creativity is, I feel, that of the schizoid's deranged potential (when untreated) for 'psychobabble'. We are aware of James Joyce's use of portmanteaux words in his literature (eg. 'Funferal' instead of 'Funeral'). Joyce used portmanteaux as an expression of a modernist world devoid of sane romantic colour. His final work, 'Finnegan's Wake', is so overpacked with portmanteaux words as to prove, usually, unintelligible as a work of literature, working more as a piece of incredibly potent word music, or, perhaps, as a word symphony. At the time 'Finnegan's Wake' was published, Joyce's daughter, Lucia, was seriously ill with a then untreatable form of acute schizophrenia. Joyce saw his daughter's illness as one of the psychedelic energies behind Finnegan's Wake, with the psychoanalyst Gustav Jung referring to it as a product of a schizoid mind in essence. Although Joyce condemned Jung for suggesting Finnegan's Wake was a schizoid mind in essence, the fact that he cited his daughter's illness as its quintessential motor can only go to prove the psychobabble of schizoid minds not as deranged but rather something of a confused attempt to express their mental suffering in a form that they just do not have the power to express properly.

Psychobabble (which, as a word, is purely Joycean) surely goes to prove yet again the concept of creativity being only expressible when subjugated to mathematically logical principles, because psychobabble of any real workable form must pay regard to sane useages of language in the intial instance of its creation. Untreated Schizophrenics cannot subjugate their psychobabble to mathematical logical principles, for their minds are too overloaded with stimuli to do so properly. As soon as these stimuli are reduced, a schizophrenic mind either disregards psychobabble as a force of innate illness, (thereby achieving, as it were, a victory over past mental pains), or alternatively, (as is the case with many a recovering schizoid mind), they choose to parody their psychobabble, endeavouring to make it work in a way that is self-flagellating as regards their past mental pains, often referring back to its initial use as a key cause of their illness, either speaking out against it through attacks on literature like it or writing it down in a somewhat accessible manner, (eg. 'dayfish' instead of 'krayfish', 'saga lout' instead of 'lager lout'), achieving thus a renewed faith in their minds, seeing past ill psychobabble as overridden by what could be called 'logical campaigning against psychosis'. This phenonomen can be observed at meetings where past patients of mental health read verses involving assaults on psychobabble through the direct use of its literary potential (ie. less Joycean and more 'tabloid' in nature, leading to descriptions of portmanteaux  words everyone can understand).

Real and expressible creativity, therefore, regardless of how much of an insane mode of expression it aims for, must deal in logic for its final enterprise. Creativity does not live in a world of active mental destruction; rather, it lives in a world of mental destruction observed in post-destructive, tranquil, stable circumstances. Art of all forms must have regard to some adherance to principles of mathematical motivation: all types of art do this, and the more the world becomes postmodern, the more it is liable to do so, since mathematics inculcates plateaux of computerised cognizance, and postmodern living needs these plateaux of computerised cognizance for a better awareness of latterday realities (which are void of chaos in so far as they remain more-or-less entirely stable from one year to the next). Postmodern living knows little real change at heart, therefore inventions become less radically life-changing and all art chooses to recognise this, losing much of its original lust for derangement in its final mode of expression. Even clearly deranged painters, such as Vincent Van Gogh, Salvidor Dali & Dadd, must, as I see it, have adhered to principles of mathematically logified invention when creating their works, since otherwise such sheer chaos would have entered into their paintings as to destroy real artistic merit. We can imagine creativity, then, to be a mad impulse in inception but one that drives against the madness of itself as it reaches full fruition: there may have been and doubtless will always be insane artists; but as I see it, such crazed artists (Britpop Artists included) deliberately latch on to more logical synergies while they are creating and do so in order, perhaps, to feel more akin to the sane outside world than they ever are while not creating. In effect, I create the equation: creation + logic = ultimate artistry: creation - logic = ultimate artistry denied.

 Just as much longstanding tradition implies that creativity is an innate product of insanity, the postmodern world attempts to reduce insane creativity to a bare minimum. If one looks at the postmodern poetics of writers such as Simon Armitage, Carol Anne Duffy, Mario Petrucci and Sue Hubbard, for example, we find a paring-down logic at work from start to finish, which, all in all, creates direct allusions to very little chaos, opting for direct, sane, image-sound-bites, which dismisses all prior modernist precepts of intentionalist fallacy/subconscious, hidden concepts in poetry, and thereby disproves the Ancient Greek idea of poet being inspired vessel.  The words of William Shakespeare ('Midsummer's Night Dream'), where the poet is described as having an 'eye in a fine frenzy rolling' might appeal to the childhood universe of god being omnipresent in the world about us. The truth is that no postmodern poets act in this frenzied manner when creating their verses. Indeed, one look at modernist literature reveals also a deliberate assault on the theory of poet being inspired vessel, since it implies living is without god and desirous of nihilism. Of course, we all know of the ingenious foolery of Dylan Thomas, who persistently complained of being an 'angel fallen', but such divine idiocies are simply paradigms of the poet being genius. Thomas's poems, anyhow, marked the end of something rather than the beginning, since they drew on so many fading schemes of'mortal body, immortal holy ghost. Admittedly, Thomas explored modernity in some of his work but the very fact that he often escaped any venture into actually describing what his poems were about, preferring to offer, (as with The Ballad of the Long-Legged Bait), the summation of the whole business of poetry as being 'one giant fuck', goes to prove his kind of poet-outlook perhaps false and only made acceptable because of the omnipotent mystical energies in his work. Thomas's self image of being 'angel madman' was only sanctioned, anyway, because of the second world war, which launched Thomas into the mainstream media in order to make the common people believe in British Genius in an intense manner hoping thereby to make folks feel proud of their country's poet stock. The very essence of Thomas's work is inexpressible excess; something which the war-struck plebeian world of the 1940s could not help but latch on to, since it provided a deep sense of god in the face of adversity. The working classes spoke of Thomas as the 'booming boy' only because of his work's furiously idiosyncratic presence. Effectively, as the world grows more and more lost in its postmodern, post-war outlook, poetry such as Dylan Thomas's will perhaps become less and less appealing, because such poetry opts for a reassuring kind of divine being.

So it is that, regardless of folklore, creativity does not assume any madness for long since, otherwise, creativity will inevitably only evade sensible expression. The vision of the artist being crazed in essence fails to appeal to reality, since creativity of a deranged objectivity deludes itself into a state of inexpressible being, thereafter decaying into doggerel. All doggerel is a state of uninvolvement akin to madness, all madness being subject to untaught, untutored, convoluted and uncontrolled impulses. The artist, as I see it, must be entirely sane when working, or else deprive his or her selected art-talent of life. As aforesaid, creativity may derive initial being from a crazed emotional impulse, but art cannot be achieved if such a deranged effusion remains dominant during the actual art-creating process. Art lives only if understood by its creator. Art can never be art unless this is the case. Inspired artistry is poppycock, as are any concepts of the artist being 'in a fine frenzy rolling' -  any adherence to such ideologies is counterproductive and tantamount to destruction of the public's interest in an understanding of art-creation as a valuable entity.


Copyright JDB 1999