At The Sharp End: Poets? They've no rhyme or reason

  • @queenchristina_
THERE IS, says psychoanalyst Adam Phillips, "a tremendous fear in our culture about madness", but "no particular enthusiasm for the idea of sanity". It's an idea he has turned into a book, Going Sane - a lucid exploration of a state that's generally defined by an absence. Peppered with references to Hamlet, John Clare, et al, it aims to fly the flag for a state which rarely warrants a mention in literature or art.

There are, he points out, no histories of sanity, or professional experts, or "famously sane poets". He's right, of course, but as someone who has spent many years working with poets, I can't say that conspicuous sanity is often top of the list of the traits they share. It could be a legacy of the "mad, bad and dangerous" Romantic tradition or it could just be that you have to be... let's say, pretty unusual to devote your life to something so little prized and so badly paid. It is, I fear, one instance where you don't have to be mad etc, but it probably does help.