I decided in the spirit of self-promotion to review one of my own books. The Naked Man is a chapbook inspired by a true muse, a extremely intelligent, charming and desirable muse of a man, trapped, it seemed to me, in a kind of eternal adolescence marked by extreme self-absorption, unabating angst and existential questioning.
Jungian psychology posits the existence of archetypes – templates of energy that dwell in the collective unconscious of every human being. If all goes well these archetypes surface and sink, surface and sink, but sometimes are psyches get trapped, ridden, or driven by a particular pattern we find almost impossible to shake off. In that case existence becomes very two-dimensional and isolated, real engagement and relationships are lost because we are lost to ourselves.
The question I pose in the poem is one I consider often as a writer. “How dare I use the real lives and situations of myself and others as grist for my craft?” My muse’s life was an open book- he confided nothing in me exclusively and talked endlessly about all his relationships with everybody. The man had no secrets except the ones he denied and I don’t know, nor did I speculate on what those might be. Nevertheless, I feel unkind. Nevertheless, I published. Sometimes that ruthlessness scares me. I’m rather glad it manifests as poetry, instead of elsewhere.
This slim volume raises
an intriguing question, “How far
should the poet go when mining her own life
or the lives of others to complete her work?”
The Naked Man portrays a soul, perhaps
too cunningly termed “manchild”, driven by archetype.
Her puer aeternus, stripped naked, every flaw
and furbelow exposed for all the world to see
is based, according to Ms. Irving’s own admission,
upon a man she knew! She has taken personal
observation, rumor, the gossip of girlfriends
along with the subject’s own confessional soliloquies
and turned them into a series of witty, barbed
anecdotal portraits some might call unkind
in spite of being based on fact, but truly
is any person ever only his persona? What right
have poets to expose our foibles, holding up
but one mirror when so many aspects
dwell trapped within, clamoring
to be seen? There is something maenad-like
about her ruthless dissection of this man
she calls a fool. To be fair, when interviewed
the author claims she holds Fools sacred, “They
represent the unlimited potential of humankind,”
claims Ms. Irving, “ but dancing on the edge
is not enough, eventually we all must leap.”