I refuse these givens the splitting
between love and action
—Adrienne Rich, “Splittings”
Love is the promise that, if it is love, must be fulfilled as a law, through action.
Between love and action. The duality in myself regarding the idea and its expression—I am too interested in life to be an artist and too interested in art to live without editing it. My observations rest on a fulcrum, where my science is first inspired by poetry, and because of this perhaps, is disqualified from science. What I am finding, as I live in the world apart from artists, either working in their own little caves or in larger caves of institutions, whose thoughts, like a bat, are blind and their language, like bat’s spoken echoes, are only heard by those whose ears are tuned to that obscure frequency—is that it is easy to be a scientist, and difficult to find the balance on the fulcrum, with the much-desired but by way of that desire much-feared occupation of expressing oneself. Productivity in a job feels unusual to me, as if because I project myself as a poet I will be, by default, a useless employee. I also find that, in liking my work even when it does not directly entail writing, I feel like I betray myself.
The raging battle in my head, that art is a gruesome monster (whose face looks so familiar to me) and is both the reward and obstacle of my action, makes anything that is not the act of writing solely an obstacle. I take a sword to my head and hope to conquer fear. Work, science, economic vitality—all of these, I think, get in the way of directly decapitating that monster. I forget, while I am performing any of these other tasks, that without them I would not have the strength nor materials to battle.
However, the question to be or not to be an artist is always met with resentment for my life, and guilt for not committing it all to paper. Is one minute spent that had not been poetically enriched a minute lost? How much time must go by before a stanza can be written about it? Is there a word for everything, and is it my laziness, my dedication to non-poetic work, which, dumbly, cannot find it?
Even when these questions are answered briefly in the completion of a poem, which I use retroactively to gauge necessary experiences and winnow them from the chaff of others, the action—of writing it—must still go further: it must find its reader. The splitting, then between my alleged heart / my alleged head * widens when I realize I’ve done no work, I have no time, I am in the wrong place to find a reader, thus—what am I doing here? A cruel existential, Prospero-type cycle. I become nostalgic for the things I loved, or which had once loved me, as if they could vindicate the pain of being separated from myself, this person whose identity succeeds (a public recognition) in science while remains unknown in the identity-most-prized, as poet.
If there is to be a reconciliation between both efforts, which I imagine would require some public “success” as a writer—determining the standard for that success, and then achieving it—I would neglect the part of me which gleans its inspiration in my Otherness: the science of becoming what one is by detecting what one is not. A mythical endeavor, and correlates to the artist-as-god complex—a search without end, since truth—relative to the metaphysical search not for meaning, but the ineffable—if it is true, cannot be found and much less named. “I” remains the subject of inescapable duality.
* Tessa Rumsey