Emily Dickinson

All posts tagged Emily Dickinson

Madness is…

Published November 13, 2014 by Jess Arwen

Today’s Daily Prompt challenged us to write in ten minutes the first thing that came to mind, and (of course), the first thing to my mind was madness. For a personal creative project, I am trying to define “madness” poetically to include as a spoken part for a musical composition.  Emily Dickinson’s poem is of similar tone to what I am yearning to create:

Much madness is divinest sense To a discerning eye; Much sense the starkest madness. ‘Tis the majority In this, as all, prevails. Assent, and you are sane; Demur — you’re straightway dangerous, And handled with a chain.

Yet I am going for a more desperate and modern sound than Dickinson includes. While her poem is still extremely relevant to madness as it is seen today, I need something to fit the feelings of being trapped, of pure and overwhelming desperation. I am doing something with this post I’ve never done, asking for help and presenting a project before it’s done. I suppose this is madness as well, how fitting. “Madness, in its wild, untamable words, proclaims its own meaning; in its chimeras, it utters its secret truth.” Michel Foucault, Madness & Civilization This quote strongly suggests that wild and desperate plea I search for. I want madness to truly mean something, and since I am making art, I want it to mean something specific for each person. It should be a specific definition, but it should also be meaningful to everyone who comes across it. I researched scientific as well as etymological definitions of the word “madness,” and so far I have come up with: Madness is not characterized merely by violation of societal norms but also as moments of extreme clarity of things, unaffected by feelings or emotions. Instead, madness is characterized by the act of transcending society’s norms, by the act of transcending your own norms and instead discovering a land of intense emotions and thoughts that seem to tear your soul from your body. It is terrifying, but it is also enlightening, and these moments of fear become moments of clarity, for you discover who you are when you reach over the edge of madness and return. Of course, this project remains in the brainstorming section for now, but I am looking for input. You can only find so many quotes or accounts of madness on the internet without asking for help. To this end, dear readers, what is madness to you?