Pariah

Pariah

As an artist, he spins artistry – I wholeheartedly admire
But lustful seed; malicious need, delicious greed fueling his fire
Misdeeds come to light and overnight, his blights birth a pariah

Setting his art apart in heart makes me Descartes to his pariah
His harmful slips trumps craftsmanship, ripping all I admire
Provoked folks were broken on his yoke, and where there’s smoke there’s fire

Using muses won’t excuse abuse; can’t recuse flair from our fire
Through introspection, we selectively reject the learned pariah
Yet we learned the life-affirmed abuse of the abuser I admired

This known pariah grown from man’s own fire of cruelty, I admire
***

Written for imaginary garden with real toads Fussy Little Forms: Tritina. This is my second attempt at this tritina form.

Also shared on Poetry Pantry #424.

Background: There is a gifted poet who I admired and wanted to emulate a great deal. I won’t mention his name here, but some of you may be familiar with his work. He basically came from nowhere, grew up in squalor, as his people were oppressed and all-but-erased by the US government. He was physically abused as a child. But he eventually fell in love with language, pulled himself up, and rose to prominence as one of America’s dynamic new literary voices.

But tragically, he then used his newfound influence to sexually harass aspiring writers looking to him for mentorship. Obviously, my heart goes out to the women he victimized. Also, I feel like a fool for admiring him in the first place, and in some small measure, for still admiring him today.

I’ve been grappling with this for several months now. His actions were abhorrent and unacceptable. But I also cannot ignore the abhorrent conditions that birthed and probably informed his actions. Hurt people hurt people. Should this man be erased for happening to others? And what of the others who happened to him when he was a young innocent child?

I don’t have the answers, but I just feel sick about the whole damn thing.

11 thoughts on “Pariah

  1. I don’t follow news, to the best of my ability to block it out. But I wholeheartedly believe that you can love the art, and even the artist, but not every aspect about his personhood. I do not think you should have to feel compelled to reject the parts of him that you love and admire just because there are other aspects that you find reprehensible. A man is not just one thing. I could be a horrible friend but a wonderful mother. You shouldn’t discount my existence just because I fail in certain areas. I might be completely worthy of admiration in other areas.

    Love your poet and his work; hate his faults. There’s no shame in that.

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  2. I think creative artists should be judged on the merits of their work. There is always an emotional backlash when the climate of something like ‘ Me Too’ is around. Women have been suppressed and treated as property since time began. Things have to change and women must continue to fight to change it. However work should be separate from personal transgressions.If a sleazebag finds the cure for cancer, should we not use his discovery and destroy it as a matter of principle?They are varying circumstances. I think you might be referring to Walcott the Nobel prize winner.

    I wrote a poem once about a still life painting as an experiment on bias. Everyone liked it until they found out it was by Hitler. Hitler was a monster but it just so happens he wasn’t a bad still life painter.Truth is more important than bias.It is also a more intelligent approach to life. I am not a politically correct person so I imagine that these views are not populist.
    Oh and I think you did a a great job with this Tritina.

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  3. You’ve given me much to think about. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I’m unfamiliar with Walcott or his work. I’ll have to look him up.

    The guy I’m referring to is a big deal here in the US, especially within Washington state — his birth state and my current residence. I won’t mention his name here, but I’ll tell you offline if you’re still curious.

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  4. I’ve been pondering this for some hours and admit to not having answers either. Picasso is another example. One of the most famous painters in the world, a household name just about, yet he abused women terribly. Can the work be divorced from the person who made it?

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  5. I think that famous men in culture has been harassing women for a long time, and maybe it’s part of being put on a pedestal… You might even believe that you are above the rest… I do not know which poet you wrote about, but googling a little I found that Derek Walcott is one… maybe we should read them for what they are and for their art… I still admire Ezra Pound even if he grew into a fascist… But I do understand how it taints the memory of a person…

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  6. I feel sick about all you’ve described, too. Learning about the #metoo harassment from this particular author was really hard to take. Thank you for your perspective and your sharing.
    Also, I very, very much admire your rhymes in this piece! Wonderful.

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  7. A powerful and thought-provoking poem and discussion. Sometimes it is not easy to separate a poet from his/her works; despite the artistry of someone’s work, if I found out they were an abuser I would have a hard time enjoying their work after that…but that is just me.

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  8. Some great men and indeed (some) great women yield power, power born of ego, power at times abusive, abuse of all kinds. But this is not one size fits all – for goodness I think is in most of us and shines above our innate meanness.
    The above said – would my feeling of someone, anyone, change if I found they were abusers – probably.
    Sorry this is a bit rambling Barry – I am preoccupied with something I am finding difficult to shift.
    Anna :o]

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  9. Yes, it is quite a dilemma.I think it is true that we can and do love the art regardless of other aspects of the artist – yet, it does rather taint that love when we discover unpalatable truths we had not suspected. (Illogical as it may be ,it’s easier with those who have been dead a long time.)

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