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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Creating Later in Life

This PRI interview with poet Molly Peacock about her new book The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life's Work at 72 (Bloomsbury, USA) touches on two of my keen interests: collage and late life creativity.

The story of Mary Delaney, the woman who invented collage in the 1770s at age 72 or 73 as a response to her life experience, is presented by Peacock in a kind of literary collage. Delaney's process was radical for its time, and she herself was an unlikely artist. Learn how Molly Peacock relates to the process of collage-making as a poet and therefore collagist of words and fragments, and listen to the hopefulness she finds in the awakening of late life creativity as a boon of aging.

As a writer whose poetry has only started to take a serious place in my life now in my mid-40s, I often feel handicapped by my age (especially surrounded in the poetry world by so many recent grads of MFA programs themselves in their 20s with publications and awards I could never aspire to) , so late life creativity is an inspiring topic. Health concerns in my family also make me fearful of the future, so hearing a story like Mary Delaney's does much for me what it did for Molly Peacock, whose own mother died at the age at which Delaney began to blossom artistically and who also has in her family a sense of portending doom due to health issues.

Plus it's good to know collage was invented by a woman. But then, thinking about it, should that innovation have come as a surprise? Who, after all, has to make art with the remnants of time and materials left after taking care of everyone else's lives: men or women artists?

I can't wait to get my hands on this new book by Molly Peacock.

6 comments:

Mari said...

Jessica, keep writing your poems. The twenty-somethings with the fancy prizes don't (can't!) have it over you when it comes to life experience, hard-earned wisdom, and self-awareness. These qualities only come with the lived life, feed our poems, and lend them depth and complexity. But you knew that already...

Jessica Goodfellow said...

Thanks for your encouragement, Mari. I'm not giving up, just feeling old. You don't give up either!

Mari said...

I'm feeling old, too, but tell myself my poetry life is just beginning... *NOW* is the best time to begin!

Karen J. Weyant said...

Great post! I found poetry again in my mid 30's (after a long hiatus in my 20's) and often feel that I'm too old when I see all these twentysomethings publishing not one, but two books! Thanks again for the words.

Jessica Goodfellow said...

Karen, My education is in applied math, and many of my friends in pure math were under the pressure of producing a significant contribution before they turned 20 or so, since many of the most important findings in math have been made by kids whose thought processes have not yet been channeled to be like everyone else's in the field.
I'm really grateful that as poets we can look at experience as a positive, something that can bring us to a place of creativity we couldn't have reached without it, and not as a limitation; not a narrowing of possibilities but an expansion.

Karen J. Weyant said...

That's true -- my friends in the science field were pressured to find success early in life, too! In many ways, the arts are more forgiving about age....