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.
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In spite of Emanuel’s attempt at going beyond the poetics of modernism and its concern with inspiration as a relationship between the act of writing and death, she is close to some of the questions that concerned writers such as James
Joyce. Joyce’s question in Ulysses: “What idiosyncrasies of the narrator were concomitant products of amnesia?”1, can be traced in some of Emanuel’s poems which research the ground covered by forgetfulness. For Emanuel, how to construe a narrative out of nothing, how to
objectify the nothing and then tell a story about it is an endeavor which involves the creative minds of others.
Emanuel, like her father before her, draws inspiration from the human figure as it is capable of experience. In an interview she recalls her father’s imperatives as she grew up in an environment where art meant the practice of either painting or poetry writing: “Lynn, draw that vase, make it your mother. Turn the green curtain into the woods she’s walking into”2.
Emanuel’s father, whose paintings only now are getting their deserved recognition and attention, was a master especially in the portraiture genre. Interestingly enough, however, some of his still life paintings can also pass as portraits especially insofar as they exhibit a human allure which makes them painful to look at. According to Avis Berman who wrote an essay accompanying a major exhibition of Akiba Emanuel’s work at the Alexander Gallery

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