So, today, while I was eating a rueben at Applebee’s, I was thumbing through the latest edition of the American Poetry Review. When it comes to that journal, it’s kind of hit or miss with me. Anyhow, I happened across something that touches on my aesthetic beliefs about horror in literature. APR republished an old essay by William Carlos Williams, entitled “The Practice.” Basically, Williams is reflected back on his other profession (the one that paid his bills), medicine. Basically, he suggests that without his practice of medicine, he wouldn’t have been able to write. Basically, making daily house calls kept him in touch with other people’s humanity, and that, in the end, fueled his writing.

That is why as a writer I have never felt that medicine interfered with me but rather that it was my very food and drink, the very thing which made it possible for me to write. Was I not interested in man?

It’s something I always circle back to. People make literature interesting, as language can only go so far. In the end, it’s always Achilles or Hamlet that keeps us reading, not the meter Homer or Shakespeare wrote in. The drum I often beat about horror is: in order to understand or comprehend inhumanity, you also have to understand and comprehend humanity. Squirting blood can only get you so far, and it’s the people written about that keeps readers reading. Have an uninteresting character, and you have an uninteresting story. If we adapt this to poetry, it’s a matter of voice and persona, in most cases. You have a listless voice, and you have a listless poem.

But that’s not the all of it. APR also published some other material on Williams, some of it from Robert Lowell, and then there’s Christian C. Thompson’s essay “The Science of Subjectivity.” Thompson basically seeks to examine Williams through the Lens of Immanuel Kant. But, those greater points aside, I found the third paragraph of the essay and instructive reminder of what it is to be a writer:

The serious poet — whether he or she realizes it or not — is a social scientist. On a daily basis the poet is inundated by a vast amount of cultural data which excites the sensibility, is synthesized and stored by the brain, until on occasion, something happens–sometimes immediately, somtimes weeks, months, or years later, which results in a poem.

As writers, to an extent, we are the sum of our experiences. Even if fiction is largely contrived, there’s still some form of observation going on, some sort of stimulus that has warranted a response. For Williams, it seems, this came by way of his patients and his house calls. And, it makes one wonder, at least, what might happen to horror writers if they took these observations, this sort of writing ethic to heart.

Advertisements