It’s probably safe to say that poets have a higher threshold for psychic disorder than the average population, just as professional dancers have higher pain thresholds than most of us. Not that I wish to minimize the perils of inner disorder. The novelist James Joyce once brought his schizophrenic daughter to the psychiatrist C.G. Jung. Jung, who was aware of Joyce’s wildly experimental writing, which took great psychological risks, noted to the unhappy father: ‘Where you swim, she drowns.’ Nevertheless, it is precisely this higher tolerance that makes poets so useful to their culture. What they, pressing up against their thresholds, successfully assimilate into the formal and thematic orderings of poems, can, in turn, be absorbed by sympathetic readers.

— Gregory Orr, Poetry as Survival


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