Balanced, rational, reasonable, sensible, sane, sound . . . .

Just look at those respectable adjectives!

They line up like nice little soldiers, reliable and trustworthy. Then see what happens with their anonyms (of which there are many more):

Aberrant, bananas, barmy, batty, bonkers, cuckoo, daft, deluded, demented, gaga, insane, kooky, loony, loopy, lunatic, mental, nutty, psycho, rabid, raving, senseless, screwy, unbalanced, unhinged, unreasonable, unsafe, unsound, unstable, wacko, off your rocker, out of your mind, away with the fairies, lost the plot.

Mental illness isn’t funny. But all those describing words? They mock it, stick it in a safe place on the back shelf, where we keep things we don’t want to contemplate.

Because of all that, it’s hard to write about—hard to evoke that reality where the brain doesn’t work properly—without inviting horror movie scenarios or enlisting the sympathy vote. Marion Tracy’s début pamphlet, Giant in the Doorway, steers a bold course between these torturous extremes.

Giant is about childhood with a mother who lurches from ‘normality’ to insanity. Some of the poems (in the voice of the child) struggle to make sense of what’s going on, but there’s no self-pity. The narrator is (like most children) a tough little individual. At one point she herself becomes the friendly giant, protecting her older sister from the terrors.

In the second half of the collection, the poet looks back on her childhood from the point of view of an adult. She’s still trying to make sense of the relationship with her mother, in the way most of us do all our lives. Through the chaos of past events emerges a strong, clear voice. To describe confusion plainly is, in some sense, to take control:

I’m ten the bowl of stars I breathe in move my arms
up and down then out is something I have
no name for and none for this but I know it’s wrong

Giant in the Doorway will be launched next Saturday (8th September) at the Candid Arts Trust galleries in London (the Poetry Book Fair). Matthew Stewart will be launching Tasting Notes at the same time, with wine and a tapa of Iberico Ham. Both new chapbooks will be in the online shop within the next week or so.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.