It is very sad for me to say, but I could not think of one person or work that has inspired me! It is not for lack of options. I am a voracious reader, visit museums and attend the theatre, and passionately study history. Then why could I not pick one person? The thought that came to me was perhaps, it wasn’t that I was not inspired by someone, but rather that I could not separate all of the people who had! Now, I had to face the problem of how to incorporate this insight into my theme. Staring at my computer screen far too long, pondering, thinking, of those who had influenced my life. The list became rather long. My friends, my hero’s; Dorothy Parker, Helen Keller, my father, Beethoven, Millais’ “Ophelia”, Henry James, Gustave Klimt, Edgar Allan Poe, Francisco Goya; the list goes on and on. I thought perhaps if I could find a common bond between these, I could write a paper. What I found was more puzzlement.
I tried to look at all of these people as individuals. This made it difficult because I didn’t know everything about their personal lives. I knew of Parker and the Algonquin Round Table, how I wished to be seated there one evening. Helen Keller and her political work, Beethoven’s struggles with his father and other people’s opinions, Poe’s bottomless depression, but very little about the others, except I loved their work. What could I use to tie them together? The only thing that sprang to mind was each of their effects on me as a person. They have found a way to touch my soul where no one else was allowed to reach. It seemed as if a cold finger had pricked my heart and scarred me in a way that I found pleasant. Each became exceptional and forced me to show emotion, which; I had seen as a weakness all my life.
I listen to Beethoven whenever I am depressed or feeling bad. The music seeps into my skin and gets into my blood. I program my CD player to play “Piano Trio No.4 in D Major”, “Op. 70, No.1 ‘Ghost’”, and “Symphony No.7 in A Major, Op.92” over and over again. There is something about the way he arranged the music that gives me the chills. The piano trio opens with violins that break apart periods of the piano. They seem to twine around each other and give the listener a personalized visual imagery. My favorite, though, is Symphony No.7. It is haunted by a collection of cellos that are matched by violins and later horns to create a powerful feeling of ecstasy. It engulfs me and makes me feel as if time has stood still so that I can live inside that moment of beauty forever.
Klimt makes an obvious choice. He seems the most popular artist with students so I won’t go into him as much, except to say that he presents humanity in a very fresh and raw state that I find reaffirming and comforting. I will, however, talk about John Everett Millais’ “Ophelia”. Millais painted “Ophelia” in 1852 as an answer to mid-century realists. He and other artists started what is now referred to as the “Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood”. Other artists attacked his painting as not being “realistic”, because it portrayed a subject matter that was not. “Ophelia” opens like a photograph taken of the Bards’ tragic heroine amidst her plight into the water. She is seen floating just above the surface, with a look of contentment that is almost laconic. She seems innocent, and it is this innocence that makes me love the painting. Millais has captured human essence on canvas. Looking at this painting forces me to take mark of my own distress and plight. It awakens all emotion in the admirer of the work. To me, Millais is a genius.
I was brought up in a household where reading was encouraged, and was fortunate enough to end up loving it. I always had books and other reading materials whenever I wanted them. My father has a major in History as well as English and Business, so we would always stay up into the late hours talking about symbolism and plot lines in various works. We loved to debate! Therefore, it would surprise no one who knew me to see that I picked Dorothy Parker, Edgar Allan Poe, and Henry James as a poor representation of my favorites. Each has a similar bond to me. Each expresses human emotion as if it were a force that could not be controlled. Each exposes their creative id to their audience and makes no apologies for it. Parker is absolutely one of the greatest female literary figures of all time. She was a feminist when such a thing was unheard of and considered taboo. She lived her life for herself, and we were all in it “for the ride”. Reading her poetry is like reading the writings of my soul. It is pure and bare, open to wounds. “And should I offer you fidelity, You'd be, I think, a little terrified.”
Poe is much the same, however, in a more conventional sense. It is hard to me to discuss Poe as conventional, but there is something about convention when talking about a poet you learned in school. Poe was probably the first poet I read and truly understood. I could identify with his twisted sense of reality and adventures into the macabre. His short stories were unlike anything ever read before, and his poetry revealed a man stripped of dignity and hope. He was a purist and a realist. His poetry was without the frill of others during that period. James, however, is an unlikely choice since I do not enjoy most of his other works. It is particularly of his novel “The Turn of the Screw” that draws me to him as a writer. I wrote my freshman English research paper on that work, against better advice. The way that he achieves symbolism without making it painfully obvious is inspiring. He develops his characters as if he were writing autobiographically. I have never read a man write a female character so well before in my life. He reveals the governess’ character as both sane and insane at the same moment in time.I guess inspiration comes in all forms. Maybe I have been inspired. Looking back at what I have written seems to paint a different view, than my opening statement. I guess it’s just that we all look at inspiration in different ways. Maybe I thought I had not been inspired because I’ve always thought inspiration was something one knew was happening; not what you had to sit and think about for days on end. Inspiration should be blatant. When faced with this prompt, I should have had a light bulb turn on over my head or heard a crack of thunder or something, but this is not the movies or a book or a painting. There is no thunder to symbolize a thought or burst of thinking. Just me-sitting in my den, slouched over the computer, humming to myself and taking solitaire breaks from writing. Very uninspiring, I’m sure, but what is one to do? I have to write on the topic. My English teacher has allowed this composition to be a grade. It pains me to have written such a short paper; there is so much to say! My tale is done and now I will retire to bed.