Thursday, May 07, 2009
Two Poets: A Psychiatric Patient/ A Mental Health Worker/ The Keeper/The Kept/ A Reading
PRESS RELEASE: THE RED LINE: Two Poets: A Psychiatric Patient/ A Mental Health Worker/ The Keeper/The Kept/ A Reading
Two poets with a common knowledge. Two points of view from a shared experience—the kept and the keeper—of life in the psych ward. Both know what it’s like to be behind the red line six feet from the locked door of the unit. One could cross over it, go home, the other could not. Hence poet Elizabeth Kirschner as one of the kept. Hence poet Doug Holder as one of the keepers. Two separate books—My Life as a Doll—by Kirschner brought out by Autumn House Press and From the Back Bay to the Back Ward
by Holder, Ibbeston Press, a pick of the month in the Small Press Review.
The lock-up, the ward. One reading. So just what goes on behind the red line? Kirschner’s book, nominated for the Lenore Marshall Prize, is a survivor’s tale, a memoir in verse which has devoted one of its four sections, “Tra-la-la,” to depicting in detail the Dantesque inferno of the unit. The other three are a harrowing account of the childhood abuse that later erupted into terrifying flights into madness which have led and still lead her to life behind the red line, that holding tank of the damned.
Here’s one excerpt from “Tra-la-la:”
O what a scanty things I was that winter
of winters when hellbent angels wanted to mate
with me, but I was an absentee and dreams
lunged out of me like rabid dogs and my scent—
burnt match, cursed cinder—trailed me
like a smoky mood. I abandoned myself
in the unit where there were no sharps, where
there were no cords, where I was checked
every ten minutes and my pulse was stolen.
Or this one from Holder’s exacting portraits of the kept:
She is on guard
for the vulpine machinations
of the silent, incessant voices
chattering in her cortex
a murderous Greek chorus
slapping at the hollows
of her skull.
from: “Lost Girl on the Psychiatric Ward”
Two distinct voices /The Poetry Reading/ Sept 9, 2009 7PM Porter Square Books Cambridge, Mass