Peter Gladius, an utter mediocrity who believed himself to be a ‘mad genius’ of the likes of Tasso, romanticized his severe psychiatric condition in verse while actively taking steps to worsen it in life. He subscribed to obsolete scientific paradigms and polluted his brain by engaging in alchemy experiments with modern household products, convinced that bleach, borax, and window cleaner were the key factors in unlocking the secret to the philosopher’s stone. Ever on the verge of his great discovery, he abruptly died of cancer. As a poet he achieved minimal notoriety through his incompetent metrical experiments, but was forgotten in the public eye long before he died.
Madness and Literature
Who seeks undying fame from poetry? Those only whose divinity is cracked. The muse embroiders minds with pleasures free That underwrite obsession’s subcontract. Torquato’s errant judgment flared his spark To furore, by which he was destroyed: God lit his wick to taper in the dark Where he was glassed, a candle in the void. Dean Swift admitted patients with their prayers When founding an asylum—there to drag his soul, too, in the end with all their cares. His spirit was too large for Brobdingnag. “Form German culture with Hellenic soul!” Great Holderlin’s pursuit was always grim: For thirty years a tower’s rayed keyhole Glimpsed auguries. A carpenter mourned him. Infinity’s old prostitute, The Seer, Escaping creditors, swings from ennui To unrequited longing: Baudelaire Could not pay off the pimp, hypocrisy. Brash Zarathustra’s mustache mimicked scripture: He drank the sea and left some flopping fish In mud; then posed in prophet’s garb, was pictured With a vacant gaze into his own abyss. So here we have arrived—the modern age! Where poets swill their status as outcasts, Consuming pills prescribed to quiet rage And dampen creativity en masse. The world, now mad itself, pays dividends: Where golden bards once lived on patrons’ fees, In leaden palls their working day, so long, extends Until they’re laurelled in dementia’s withered wreaths. One needs to sacrifice, one needs to be devout; The heretic of language makes the page an altar. One must take eccentricity and drag it further out: No path to inspiration but for sanity to falter. Renounce the nomenclature of the medical profession. Originality of mood brings notoriety To old clichés. Just label 'phobic-traumatized depression' Within archaic strains of medical variety. Ah Melancholia, gray friend, draw your umbrella black And block the sun, to conjure darkness, question what exists. Please do for me what you did for those kindred souls way back; I'd like to cancel my appointments with psychiatrists.
Madness and Medicine
My every organ serves the vital spleen: Thus blood and wit and air All circulate around my bile, Made thick by flowing wine and beery streams. Good humors nurse with care My yawning melancholic style. A body bled out from the leech’s bite Makes more room in the veins for liquid Night. The alchemist can turn my mind to gold: Just pour it all, yes please— The periodic table whole— Into my brain, where so much lead now moulds The poison thoughts I sneeze That fossilize all hearts to coal. The stone of sorcerers is in that head Where value’s undiscovered, virtue’s fled. Phrenolobotomize each faculty: Carve amativeness out, And cease to dote, adore, or mate; Resculpt causality to casualty, Put consequence in doubt, Then stipple reverence into hate. No love, religion, fate, ought to distract From curing evolutionary fact. Hysteria I bore as my false Me, So on a table, tied, I fast rewrote creation’s credo By undertaking gender therapy; Now on a couch I lie With a disturbance of libido. A living doll cut from its puppeteer Will grow new strings where none had yet appeared. A lycanthropic drug can mitigate The bloody side-effects Of solar-powered lunacy. Each night I replicate the monthly state When moonlight casts its hex, And daily clouds of worries flee. Dead science shot with folklore from the tomb Can soften midnight with its pallid gloom.
Madness and Nature
A poem unnaturally set in pyrrhispondetrochiambic pentameter.
We of good sense, squatting on solid ground Where no earthquakes fissure its blacker depths, With our spades lift nothing that’s too profound From the graveyards covering heaven’s steps. But you plunge skyward, and may chance to find In the Archfiend, Nature, fortuity In Her hellborn terrors that echo blind The revilement: “cursed be congruity!” Like the midnight sun that will beat its rays In the North Pole, circling through every hour, Or as sinkholes blighting the everglades, You’re a crossbred season, a desert flower. You exhume great valleys beneath this world That you dredge, dredge—oystering wide the core To erupt brimstone in its cloister pearled, And rescale us—angel-and-beast centaurs. Then all madcap frenzies will have just cause To be loosed: landscaping the earth around Till you’ve drained Dame Nature to menopause; And we mankind, falling, will love the ground.
Madness and Hair
The locks of sanity twine ironclad When bedlamites grow feral as nomads, And lowly men flop jester’s follicles To shake out puffed-up periwigs a tad. For everyone the Feast of Folly gulls, The monastery shaves more holy skulls. Sole-firmamented Joan saved Catholic France Where soul-fermented tramps now roam in trance: By corporate cannon fired to garbage bins, These shaggy saints in alleyways now dance To starry revolutions peeled from Sin— Bare fruit of man’s pathologizing spin.
The center of the universe is he Who wills himself into a cosmic law. No social circle’s solar system pulls, Nor centrifugal duty gravitates Away his dark-mattered mentality. He can’t know who exists outside his slate, But surely all who might be there are blank Of transmigrational cosmologies That prove the past belongs to him alone: He is the Best of All Possible Worsts, “I drink therefore I am,” the Unmoved Boozer Absorbing spirits to establish Being -in-the-Whirled, tumbledrying endlessly Around the warm celestial tofu lump Confining his disoriented Nous. The universe is just a bit too small To fill his bottle like a sailing ship, So with one oar he orbits through his depths At rest, and swigs away the ‘then’ in ‘now.’ The paradox of motion’s a footrace Of solipsists who govern time and space.