March 26th, 2010
From Roberto Bolaño –
“Then I told him that I thought poets were hermaphrodites and that they could only be understood by each other.”
& from Coleridge via Virginia Woolf:
“Coleridge [...] said that a great mind is androgynous. It is when this fusion takes place that the mind is fully fertilized and uses all its faculties. [...] Perhaps a mind that is purely masculine cannot create, any more than a mind that is purely feminine, I thought. [...]
& more from Woolf:
Coleridge certainly did not mean, when he said that a great mind is androgynous, that it is a mind that has any special sympathy with women; a mind that takes up their cause or devotes itself to their interpretation. Perhaps the androgynous mind is less apt to make these distinctions than the single-sexed mind. He meant, perhaps, that the androgynous mind is resonant and porous; that it transmits emotion without impediment; that it is naturally creative, incandescent and undivided.”
Bolaño uses “hermaphrodites” here loosely perhaps — one could have, after all, both sets of genitalia and still possess only characteristics of one or the other sex (disposition, facial features, emotional response, etc.) The key here is the connection between creativity and androgyny which Woolf, Coleridge, Bolaño, Blake, Havelock Ellis, Jung and so many others have identified throughout the centuries. Whatever one means by “feminine” or “masculine” — some have identified the masculine principle with evanescence, some with essential aggressiveness, some with fixity; some have identified the feminine principle, too with evanescence, liquidity, some with stability, some with an even darker chaos, to name just a few widely varying associations — one assigns opposing traits to each, traits unified in the androgyne mind.
I offer a related schema: All true creative acts spring from two selves of influence: the pattern-finding, selecting, organizing self, and the intuitive, impulsive, & emotional self. And guiding the interaction & fusion of both selves is the spirit within/without us. I don’t know which of these selves is masculine, which is feminine (I used to think I knew very well, and I was wrong). All I know now is that true art — art which has been true for the maker and which speaks truly to at least one other being — requires a temporary and unstable gathering of these selves, impelled by will, for the purpose of a birth.
C. Way/ SnailCrow.com © 2010