In Psychopathology: Foundations for a Contemporary Understanding, edited by James E. Maddux and Barbara A. Winstead, I have come across some interesting tidbits during these first few weeks of fall semester that I have been eager to share with someone. How about you, Best American Poetry blog reader, out there?
First, let us consider that pathological behavior is both outside the statistical norm and also maladaptive. By maladaptive, we mean behavior that does not help a person do better. By outside the statistical norm, we mean infrequent in the general population. However, we usually only think of something negative. “To say that someone is ‘pathologically intelligent’ or ‘pathologically well-adjusted’ seems contradictory because it flies in the face of the commonsense use of these words.” (Maddux and Winstead).
This statement, as you can well imagine, got me thinking. What would it mean to be pathologically poetic? What would a pathologically poetic person look like and what would his or her day-to-day existence entail? Would this person speak in iambic pentameter every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, trochees and spondees on Tuesday/Thursday and save the weekend for nothing but speaking in haiku?
Would a poetic psychopath see the entire world in a grain of sand, and metaphorical significance in everything from the delivery of the day’s mail to the mowing of the lawn? How does one who is pathologically poetic deal with such mundane tasks as folding laundry, going grocery shopping, dropping children off at soccer, and emptying the litter box?
Don’t even mention cleaning a toilet bowl or unclogging a drain. Those chores require someone more pathologically inclined toward plumbing. Research in this realm is begging to be undertaken, but funding is scarce for this kind of endeavor.
A poetic psychopath is not able to go anywhere without a small notebook and pen, tools needed to jot down interesting ideas. Those in the real throes of the disease will take to carrying a small digital recorder in which to speak ideas and snippets for poems. This person is marked by an uncanny ability to see connections between all things (living and non-living) and would be able to describe the shortest line between a bride and a waterfall, a tree and a unicorn, a banana and a bayonet.
The pathologically poetic individual will often be found staring out of bus windows, laying in the grass looking at clouds, or whistling in the dark. These types are enamoured of the alphabet, idiomatic phrases, foreign languages, synonyms, homonyms, and oxymorons. They also tend to be gourmands and to enjoy a nice glass of wine with supper.
Last but not least, the poetic psychopath hears the sad note in every happy chord, and sees the beauty in that which is least pleasing to the eye. There is hope for those who are able to get these contradictory thoughts down on paper. For the rest--those who ignore their illness--there is only madness and despair; marked by a feeling of impending doom complete with arsenic lobsters falling from the sky.
If you know such a person, or if you are such a person, the best thing the experts can offer by way of relief at this time is to suggest total acceptance of the situation. Resistance is futile. Do not fall prey to the temptation of medication, unless it is in the form of ice cream. Let be be finale of seem. Find a red wheelbarrow, a summer’s day, or the road less traveled by. Go there, taste it, smell it, embrace it. Trust me, dear reader, that will make all the difference.