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The Dangers of Being a Poet

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There are many occupations in today's world. Doctors, lawyers, construction workers, scientists -- the list goes on and on. There is only one job that seems to require a certain mindset and even childhood. This job is called a poet. There are many types of poets -- some are smart, but only a few are truly brilliant. Unfortunately, the brilliant ones are almost always the subtly tortured. They all seem to die far too young for their wealth and time. Why is this so? Why do we immortalize the brilliant but injured? There are many examples of people who were, and some are still, absolutely amazing poets who wrote work that was massively inspirational to many, but only normal to them.

I want to start with one of my personal favorites, Edna St. Vincent Millay. Even though I only learned about her recently in school, I went home and found poems by her. Her work really reaches out to me, but why, I do not know. Poems like "Assault," "Bluebeard," "Afternoon On A Hill," and my personal favorite, "A Visit To The Asylum." There is something about her writing that strikes a chord with me, but what that chord is I do not know. She lived in New York City and had a very narrow (roughly shoulder-to-shoulder) width of space to move and live in. While she was fine in terms of mental health, in 1950, she fell down her stairs while having a heart attack that had followed a coronary occlusion. That is the strange part. After living a normal and healthy life, she had a heart attack and died at the age of 58. She was in the middle of her life, and she just dies. Edna St. Vincent Millay was not the first inspirational poet to die at a young age. Many fascinating poets died very early on in their lives.

The next poet is Emily Dickinson. Emily Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830, and was the daughter of a successful family. Emily was known to be a perfect child in her family. She started to become a recluse in 1850, when many people she knew had died. She then started to wear only white and would only talk to people through doors. She began only communicating with friends through letters. The amazing thing is that while she was so disconnected with the human part of the world, she grew towards the other part, nature. She would go into the woods and find plants, leaves, and many other parts of nature. She would send some of these flowers with poems to her neighbor. In her reclusion, she wrote her most amazing poems, but throughout her life, she wrote over 1800 poems. Only less than a dozen were published, and those were heavily edited to fit the politics of the time. One of Emily's last requests before she died in 1886, when she was only 56, was for her sister to burn all of her poems. When she started, she found a whole cache of poems in Emily's home, and thankfully decided to not burn any of them. Instead she gave them to the public and made Emily Dickinson an even bigger poet than she was already.

Another amazing poet is Robert Burns. Robert Burns was also known as Scotland's favorite son, the Ploughman Poet, Robden of Solway Firth, the Bard of Ayrshire and simply as the Bard. Robert is also regarded as a pioneer of the romantic movement for his many poems about love. One of these poems is another one of my favorites, "A Red, Red Rose." While Robert seemed like a regular brilliant poet, he had very similar "symptoms" of a magnificent poet. He was considered a playboy and had 16 children over his lifetime. It is believed that he has over 600 living relatives to this day. He died at the very young age of 37. His funeral, four days later, was the same day his son Maxwell was born. He loved parties and other social events. His lifestyle, in my opinion, is like Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem "First Fig":"My candle burns at both ends/It will not last the night/But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends/It gives a lovely light."

My final poet is Walt Whitman. Walt was part of the transition from transcendentalism to realism. He was born in 1819 and died in 1892. He also wrote a temperance novel, Franklin Evans. He is one of the few brilliant poets who lived up to the age of 73. His work often reflected what was going on at the time. The poem, "Captain! My Captain!," was about the death of Abraham Lincoln, and was widely controversial. Walt Whitman was forced to move into his brother's home after suffering a paralytic stroke in early 1873. In his last weak of life, when he was barely able to lift a pen, he wrote, "I suffer all the time: I have no relief, no escape: It is monotony - monotony - monotony - in pain." These are some of the most heart-breaking words I have ever read, because this is a man who is clearly in pain, and chose to write of it in such a horrifying but real way. An autopsy later revealed that his lungs had diminished to one-eighth of their normal breathing capacity.

I think of poetry as a form of art more difficult than painting, playing an instrument or photography. Poetry is an art form that reaches into one's very being, and toys with very sensitive emotions. I believe that is why poems convey certain feelings and bring back certain memories. These poets were all amazing and unique in their writing styles and lifestyles. Through all of these differences with each other, they are all very alike. I believe that poetry was created as a for people to feel emotions such as love, sadness, happiness, unfairness and optimism through a new lens.