Hayden Carruth, Author, Carruth, Author Copper Canyon Press $18 (164p) ISBN 978-1-55659-089-4
The myth of the poet as a tortured, suicidal soul unable to cope with the complexities of modern life is deeply ingrained in popular consciousness. Based on the evidence here, prize-winning poet Carruth (Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey) might well be considered a model case; in any event it seems a wonder he did not succumb to the fate of fellow American poets such as Berryman and Lowell. But, in the fragments of memoir that comprise this book, Carruth, now in his late 70s, demonstrates that there is more to being a poet than merely wearing one's neuroses on one's sleeve. He recounts the peculiarities of growing up in a home pervaded by a ""secular and neurotic puritanism"" that, he suggests, formed the basis of his later difficulties. With matter-of-fact forthrightness, Carruth assesses the significance of his hospitalization for chronic depression, debilitating phobias, nearly fatal suicide attempt as well as his love affairs and poverty. He argues that ""a writer's writing occurs in the midst of, and by means of, all the materials of life, not just a selected few,"" and although he has taught creative writing at Syracuse University, he believes that ""life in the academy is too easy."" He has been sustained by certain much-loved things: music, ""abandoned places,"" and, of course, a lifelong ""fascination with words, grammar, the mechanics of language"" with an emphasis on precise writing that is evident throughout. Eccentric, opinionated and cantankerous, Carruth shows that although life is messy and unpredictable, it is possible to survive, to write well and to salvage from the wreckage a redemptive dignity. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 08/01/1998
Genre: Nonfiction
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