Saturday, June 02, 2012

Serfs of Psychiatry/Who To Impress/Vera Pavlova/


Review:  Serfs of Psychiatry (Finishing Line Press 2012) by Gil Fagiani

Of course, Gil Fagiani’s chapbook Serfs of Psychiatry (Finishing Line Press 2012) reminds me of Vilma Ginzberg’s Snake Pit which I published over my Round Barn Press imprint during 2010.  Each covers the terrors abundant in mental asylums.  Both institutions are located in the State of New York.  Each lays out the horrific scene.  However, Ginzberg is more therapeutic in her approach.  Fagiani simply puts the Inferno right in your face, as in the vernacular of simply “making it real.” 

The differences are those of time and place.  Vilma came 20 years before Gil. Conditions, back then, while certainly horrendous enough, pale in comparison to what they’ve become.  Ginzberg’s institution may be viewed as a harbinger of Fagiani’s.  As to place, she was “upstate” in Rockland State Hospital while he labored down the City in Bronx State Hospital.

When, 10 years after he’d worked there, Fagiani visited “the asylum” he found in “The Geometry of Misery,”  that “All the people were the same.//There was the dwarf/with the non-stop laugh/who drank coffee all day/and raced around/who is without legs now/and sits slumped in a wheelchair.”

In a powerful prose poem he recalls “Marty” who “...had big breasts and/bitty balls and would pop his cork by laying on his belly/and kicking himself in the butt with the back of his feet.” and who would say “ ‘sweet juice’ and smile sometimes after  he/washed down his meds with an extra cup of cherry/Kool-Aid.  Otherwise the only sound that would come/out of his mouth was something that sounded like/ ‘ah-coo-cha-la’ which one nurse said was shim talk for/ ‘I’ll cut your head off.’  ‘Ah-coo-cha-la’ was Marty’s/ war cry...”

Fagiani also pays deep attention to staff members working and retired like Miss Hunter, found dead, "her stroke-stiffened head/purple as an eggplant."  The story of her life is discovered in her possessions, evidence plenty enough to inspire a novelist  and tenderly cataloged  by the poet include "a framed certificate of appreciation/signed by the governor,/a large print bible/an electric broiler/two auburn hair extensions,/a wig cleaning kit,/a chrome cocktail shaker,/two packs of Gypsy Good Time/playing cards,/and a book on how to interpret dreams/for love and money."

This is gritty and nicely-crafted work culminates in a complex poem about paranoia and suicidal ideations ironically titled "My Wife Accused Me of Having Another Woman."  Throughout Serfs of Psychiatry, Gil Fagiani never goes out of his way to spare himself.  Highly recommended. Go to Finishing Line Press to order.

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Ultimately,
the person who
you most need to impress
with the quality of your work
is yourself. 

                        — Ed Coletti 

Comment or Read Comments Here on any of the above or below. If you do not have a Google account, log in under "Name/URL," (it's easy). Just the name (don't worry about the URL). Actual name is best, but use what you like. Or email me at edcoletti@sbcglobal.net, and I can post it.

15 Aphorisms from Vera Pavlova's  
Heaven Is Not Verbose: A Notebook
(for full text, go to Poetry (April 2012)

  • Inspiration: when I have confidence in myself.
  • Pick a piece of wood floating in the river and follow it down the current with your glance, keeping the eyes constantly on it, without getting ahead of the current.  This is the way poetry should be read: at the pace of a line. 
  • How do I feel about people who do not understand my poetry?  I understand them.
  • Being well-known means knowing almost nothing as to who knows you and what they might know about you.
  • Poetry begins when not only the reader but also the author starts wondering whether it is poetry.
  • I write to equalize the pressure from without and from within, to prevent being squashed (by misery) or being blown apart ( by happiness).
  • - Do you understand that understanding is impossible?                                                              - I do. 
  • By giving my books as presents, I mark my territory.
  • Stravinsky: "I like writing music more than I like music."
  • A fisherman told me: "Writing poetry must be like digging for earthworms: you grab the critter by the end and pull.  Pull too hard, and it'll break/ not hard enough, it'll get away."
  • From a letter of a young poet: "I write when I feel bad. When I feel fine, I don't write."  With me, it's the opposite: when I write, I feel fine. I feel bad when I do not write.
  • An ideal poem: every line of it can serve as a title for a book.
  • Reader: Do you want me to recognize my everyday world in your poems?                            Poet: No, I want your world to seem unfamiliar to you, once you take your eyes off the text.
  • When a true poet dies, we realize that all his poems were about death.
  • Reader: Yevtushenko claims that in Russia a poet is something more than just a poet.  Is that true?                                                                                                                                 Poet: No, nothing can be more than a poet.                                                                                  
    Comment or Read Comments Here on any of the above or below. If you do not have a Google account, log in under "Name/URL," (it's easy). Just the name (don't worry about the URL). Actual name is best, but use what you like. Or email me at edcoletti@sbcglobal.net, and I can post it.