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.