On Writing ‘Only The Fallen Can See’

My poetry manuscript was hidden beneath a mossy darkness and the relentless tears that drained my days, stole my years. What could I harvest from grief and the sure knowledge of despair? These poems were held together by the awful weight of bipolar disorder, each one reflecting back another facet of myself struggling to remain above water. As a mother, lover, teacher and daughter, I learned to carry my illness lightly, but I was a ragged butterfly trapped in a jar.

When depression entered I folded in on myself and my world shrank to black. I have since travelled many paths to find the light. Throughout this journey, I have created poems of ‘such emotional intensity and evocative imagery’ that the reader is taken to my most secret place- a place of courage and hidden strength.

The poems are about love, even the fractured love you find ‘when all you can do is sigh, yes’. They are about unspeakable sadness and the way it infiltrates your innermost thoughts. And they are about hope. The hope that was fashioned out of pills and the touch of a loving hand linking me to a life well lived.

There are no cures for a lonely heart. The poems speak ‘the truth of loss and longing, flying and letting go’. They tell stories of connection with the past, and offer a beacon for other pilgrims to follow. Through it all, the arms of family embraced me as I tremulously rallied from fear and pain. They have kept me from drowning on days when ‘even the sound of a voice was more than I could bear’.

‘This collection is for those who have tasted grief or grown small with despair’. It chronicles the long search for happiness so rare in my beleaguered life. Each poem is steeped in the realization that through suffering and joy we find our humanity. They give a brief but intense look at what it means to be fully alive, particularly for those living with mental illness.

I spent years crying and seconds laughing, but which weighs more; the poem about a sunset, or the one speaking of annihilation? They speak of a woman, who, despite her fear, believed in the power of hope, with all its attendant frailties. A woman who knows that in the dark ‘only the fallen can see’.

I have been transformed by bipolar illness, and am glad to have touched those places that have given me tolerance, understanding, justice and truth. Every poem is a glimmer of the ‘unspeakable burden of living with an illness that leaves hairline scars on the soul’.