by Stefan Andrews
What is a writer, a poet, a novelist, without the love for a glass or two? The link between the two seems everlasting.
Among other vices, alcohol has sometimes helped great writers with getting their creative juices going. While a glass or two would have been enough for some, others were not so immune and succumbed to excessive drinking even at the cost of their own health.
Without a glass of sherry, Maya Angelou’s otherworldly poetry may have not been the same indeed. The poetess has listed sherry as one of the ingredients helping her wordsmithing, besides her copies of the Bible and Roget’s Thesaurus.
Angelou used her favorite drink wisely, however. “I might have it at six-fifteen a.m. just as soon as I get in, but usually it’s about eleven o’clock when I’ll have a glass of sherry,” she remarked on her daily routine in a 1990 interview with George Plimpton for The Paris Review.
Other writers have not been so cautious with drinking as Angelou. Beat Generation icon Jack Kerouac was more than well-acquainted with heavy drinking.
The writer was already famous when he moved to Northport, New York in 1958. The New York Times writes that there, “the locals remember him mainly as a broke barfly who padded about barefoot or in bedroom slippers.”
And how much did Kerouac like his booze? He once said: “I’m Catholic and I can’t commit suicide, but I plan to drink myself to death.”
Eventually, Kerouac died out of cirrhosis of the liver, in 1969.
The writer of The Portrait of Dorian Gray had a favorite drink that has a fair share of tradition among literary figures. It was absinthe, the same drink that fellow absinthe fan Arthur Rimbaud described as “sagebrush of the glaciers.”
The “green fairy” as this drink was also called, was loved by a troop of French authors such as Paul Verlaine, Emile Zola, and Charles Baudelaire, due to its properties to awaken the imagination.
In Wilde’s words, “the first stage” of absinthe drinking is “like ordinary drinking,” but the second stage is “when you begin to see monstrous and cruel things, but if you can persevere you will enter in upon the third stage where you see things that you want to see, wonderful curious things….”