Discussion → INTERVIEW (take one) with Lynn Beighley

  • Image.bedroom.009.expose.thumb
    Ann Bogle
    Nov 09, 08:06pm

    We'll try a new version of this interview when Lynn and I meet in New York in December. Here is our first go (emailed), my answers to her questions about the M ILLNESS group:

    On Wed, Sep 19, 2012 at 3:43 AM, Ann Bogle <AMBogle@com> replied to Lynn Beighley’s questions dated 8/22/2012 1:32:26 P.M. Central Daylight Time, lynnbeighley@com:


    Group Description:

    Diagnosis = dx
    Diagnosed = dx'd
    Treatment = tx
    Prescription = rx

    My book not written is to be called Dx'd. We can't copyright titles, but I want that one, and earned it in Tx in TX.

    1. What does your Group Description mean?

    Abbreviations used by another industry about us. Degree specifications not ours. Creative writers’ work is through characters. Clinicians’ work is through us. We create characters. They define us around little acronyms and abbreviations. The list of abbreviations and acronyms (above, the group description) is limited, not as specific as it gets within the scope of that industry. There is no attempt in it to direct discussion or to explain, yet emotion results from reading it; a tight clot forms in the mind. The tightness is related to the oppression of persons and also of humanity.

    That world (clinical diagnoses) is sometimes described as a “hospital without walls.” I believe Peter Kramer has called it that. In Minnesota where I have lived most of my life, the clinical world is becoming increasingly forensic, as if mood swings and tics and phobias and delusions and psychological duress and (mal)adaptations and disorders are somehow illegal forms of internal experience. They threaten, for one thing, capitalism—if capitalism means donating labor (for a barely livable wage) to aid a few others in attaining wealth. Duress comes in part from the false promise that one can fulfill one’s destiny living in the United States—from a broken social contract. In art and writing, there is merely a promise, regulated by concepts of prestige. Mental illness carries concepts of liability and peer hierarchy that mimic not prestige but pecking orders.

    2. What prompted you to create this group? What prompted you to create this group when you actually created it?

    Online pandemonium in early August. I was thriving when it occurred, yet the labels for it were “manic” and “high mania.” Gloria Garfunkel had arrived at Fictionaut with her excellent work, her expertise as therapist, and her interest in creating and reviving groups at the website. That was one. Two, unrelated, were fights, online rows about prose, narrative, prosetics (term I put into use in 2001 as corollary to poetics) within a poetics and poetry context. Digression (along prose lines) was a transgression there, among certain poets online. The pressure of being flamed by my own ebook publisher led to my jumping tracks and anticipating his objections to my inquiry as “not sane” or “crazy.” I was impatient. I awaited replies from poetics to my ideas in prosetics. When the replies were not forthcoming, I guessed that the poets’ hesitation and suspicion were related to the unsaid rumor behind it all: Mental Illness. Hesitation from flash writers, to their credit, seemed more related to not wanting to codify literary (prose) experimentation.

    M ILLNESS is an erasure title. Erasure poetry is formed by selectively erasing words of another’s poetry. An example is Janet Holmes’ THE MS OF MY KIN, title formed from THE POEMS OF EMILY DICKINSON.

    3. What did you want it to be? Is it?

    I hope that group members, 68 [70] at present, will participate in threads and send stories, essays, and poems to the group. I hope it can be a hot spot for an umbrella topic that has the tendency to bore (as if already over-discussed) and to frighten in its power to invoke mad killers (with unregulated guns) and to separate citizens from their livelihoods, communities, and friendships.

    4. How is it different, how is it evolving?

    The group has been almost dormant for one [three] month[s] after birthing for two weeks. My next first task is to read any new stories added to the group since August 18.

    5. Do you want to talk about your personal experience with mental illness?

    I have added threads and considered starting others that relate in part to my own experiences. Briefly, I became diagnosed (dx’d) with bipolar disorder (manic-depression) in 1991 after the First Gulf War, following what I viewed as a walking breakdown. I continued to go to work (graduate school at the U of Houston) though my life and thinking became increasingly symbolic. Whereas before a symbol was part of a text (and for artists part of a painting or photo), suddenly symbols leaped from the real landscape into my kaleidoscopic mind. It was literature off the page—all very compelling and interesting and elating—yet not compatible with a heavy and dutiful schedule of classes and appointments, or, in the end, with writing itself. The best thing that has happened since my dx are pure forms of creativity, forms not typically documented as art, or at least not as high art. In ’91, I intuited and summarized that as, “the center of the mystery is the person alone.” The worst thing that has happened has been not working—not being selected to work (being fallowed)—as a teacher. Side effects from two medications in particular caused mental (frontal) and physical (nervous system) chaos. Treatment over the past year for ADD (rather than bipolar) has been highly effective.

    The A.D.A. (Americans with Disabilities Act) of 1992 and 2008 I hope can relate to the group’s direction.

    I heard that Ivy League experts on Charlie Rose defined two kinds of schizophrenia: violent and passive. It is a binary not “interesting” or of use to citizen-patients. (Apparently no one dx’d appeared on that show.) Imagine describing yourself as perpetually passive to people who stay up late speed reading Stephen King for the adrenalin rush or who watch violent forms of entertainment without flinching. I am not perpetually passive! Yet “not violent” describes me in willpower and intention.

    6. How does mental illness express itself in your own writing?

    This is the hardest question of all. I would like to think it doesn’t manifest in my writing, that writing is art not diagnosable by clinicians. I hope that is true.

    7. What do you hope the group becomes?

    Active with diverse voices and viewpoints.

    8. You’re using the discussions in unusual ways. How do you view these discussions?

    I have thought long about the topics I broach. I hope they lead to participation and involvement and not to a first draft of my monograph. I would not like to write a monograph, but I have daily ideas for topics and anecdotal (inductive) (experiential) hypotheses.

    9. Are you seeing stories (and maybe discussion threads) in the group that could become an anthology?

    Yes, and that is very exciting to me.

  • You must be logged in to reply.