The Psychology of Inspiration in Prose Poems by Lynn Emanuel

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Portraits in Pain: The Psychology of Inspiration in Prose Poems by Lynn Emanuel

Reconstructing notions such as potentiality and inspiration, Emanuel’s prose poems,

whose thematic range spans from involvement with the paintings of her renowned father

Akiba Emanuel (a model and ‘pupil’ of Matisse) to the ‘portraits’ of Gertrude Stein,

illuminate the interrelationship between language and world, and the psychology of inhabiting

both through inspiration. This paper will address the question of what fuels creativity when it

is put to work through the involvement of other voices which are represented (in Emanuel’s

case) as suffering from having their genius interrupted either by death, by lack of recognition,

or by amnesia.

In all Emanuel’s three collections of poems, and a couple of other chap books, inspiration

plays an important role, yet Emanuel is not interested in inspiration in the traditional sense to

mean divine connection with a higher power or a muse, and romantic transcendence.

Inspiration for Emanuel is always triggered by an attempt at understanding what pain is. The

pain of creation and composition, and the pain of reading and writing promote two different

types of understanding: first, that there is something to create out of nothing, and second, that

‘nothing’ is always a beginning. Inspiration for Emanuel is therefore the beginning of nothing.

But how does one begin nothing, a created nothing, that is, a nothing which can be rendered

and read and which can explain both the pain of understanding such relations and the

inspiration that befalls them? One of Emanuel’s answers seems to be given through her use of

amnesia. It is through the theme of forgetfulness that a connection between the writer an...

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... . Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999

Lethem, Jonathan, ed. “Introduction”. The Vintage Book of Amnesia: an anthology of Writing

on the Subject of Memory Loss. New York: Vintage Books, 2000

Suárez Araúz, Nicomedes. “The Amnesis Manifesto”, 1984 [http://www.-

smith.edu/calc/amnesia/manifesto.html]

Zawinski, Andrena. “Poetry in Review”. In Posse Review. Osiduy. Issue 9. Vol. 1, year

undisclosed [http://webdelsol.com/InPosse/zawinski9.htm]

9

1 Joyce 1992, 854

2 Domangue 1997, no pagination

3 Berman 1993, no pagination

4 Emanuel 1995, 42

5 Suárez-Araúz, 1984, no pagination

6 Joyce 1992, 854

7 Emanuel 1995, 57

8 Emanuel 1999, 7

9 Zawinski, no year; no pagination

10 Emanuel 1999, 27

11 Emanuel 1999, 28

12 Clark 1997, 10

13 Clark 1997, 119

14 Emanuel 1999, 29

15 Emanuel 1999, 30

16 Emanuel 1999, 34

17 Emanuel 1999, 34

18 Lethem 2000, xv

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