Just a quick post this week as I am working hard on editing my novel-in-draft. First of all, a big welcome to the new followers of this blog (not to forget the support of those of you who have been following for a while!).
My news this week is that I have finalised the title for my chapbook for Dancing Girl Press. It will be called the bitters with reference, in part, to the strychnine-based nerve tonics prescribed for patients (mainly female) in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. (For further information see McGarry RC, McGarry P. Please pass the strychnine: the art of Victorian pharmacy. CMAJ. 1999 Dec 14;161(12):1556-8, or catch the current exhibition on the history of the treatment of mental illness at the Science Museum, London).
The starting point for the bitters was discovering the archive of my local mental hospital (now closed) where both my grandmother and my grandfather were patients. Many of the poems in this collection are ‘collage poems’ , created out of some of the shadow side or darker ‘bits’ of cookery books, wedding advice, fashion magazines and household tips, as well as archive material pertaining to the treatment of women’s mental health, and the exploitation of female home workers in the 19th and 20th centuries.
It is due to be published by Chicago-based Dancing Girl Press http://www.dancinggirlpress.com in November 2014. Nearer the time, I will be posting more information about the background research that went into this collection as well as news about various launch events. Or feel free to contact me for more information through the comment section on this blog.
Here is a tiny snippet:
There’s a man in my room who puts sulphur in my tea. He is hiding under my bed. They say it’s a dose of the bitters to pep me up but I have seen the dark blue caddy turn green. They whisper about me. They will rob me as soon as my eyes close. The man in my room puts poison in my food. They say it’s my brother visiting but I know they’re all in on it. I watch them when they think I’m at my prayers. I am already dead. My coffin is tender the palest pink. They tuck me into it each night and tell me to sleep like a good girl.
Eliza, County Asylum, 1902 (an extract from Casebook, a sequence of poems based on patient casebooks)
the bitters, published by Dancing Girl Press, November 2014.