Manic Depression

Poems about disability. Poems about mental health and about mental disorders. It’s easy to conflate the last two. I sometimes have to remind myself I wrote an entire collection about what is it to experience mixed states of mania and depression. That’s how exceptional those months or years can seem in relation to how I see myself. Or in how I want to see myself.

I have been scanning my shelves for the poems that address more than the depressive side of the disorder. Those poems are difficult to find.

(And I would appreciate suggestions!)

I wonder if this is because so many of those poems (if they are comprehensible at all) are vibrant in a way that just feels celebratory? The kind of hyperbole that is forgiven in most poems, that just reads as a tight focus on joy? Where are the poems that feel like wildly flung Frisbees caught in a gust of wind?

And is the taint of shame visible in them after the poet settles and edits?

Instead what I am reading this morning is a poem by Lisa Gill, that is not about bipolar experience at all. Here is the beginning of “The Undering and Other Great Inhumanities on 3.6 Acres”

Remonstrance is no use. I already live
where a downed fence is a plastic tube
running under my dog’s skin, draining
the wound. Even the armchair in the den

held a slumped cottontail, smooth gray
spindle of intestine protruding from a solitary
puncture would. It’s peaceful here. Javelina
snouting the hurricane fencing, sunbeaten

days and every night sky, even clouded,
lit with stars unknown to the city, stars
vanquished from the sight of the dead
or overmedicated. There are so many types

of erosion. […]

from the anthology Beauty is a Verb. Cinco Puntos Press. 2011

The timer is about to go off. I’m going to shut down here and take Leonard for a slow walk. He can’t run because of the scar that runs down his chest. In a moment of excitement, chasing a fox, he’d caught his chest on barbed wire. This is why I have him. A former working dog now at what we call his “trivselsvekt”.

I like to think he’s happy now. We all have so much in common when the specifics are whittled away. Not that that is a goal. Rather, a way in.

There went the timer.


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