From the moment we announced the Therapy! issue, we knew that it would be a hugely popular theme. Not with readers, mind you, but with writers. Indeed, we had no shortage of contributors addressing their submission “To The Editors, For the therapy issue…”
The allure of pure madness aside, as well as the attendant delusion that asylum is a larval spa vacation, writers tend to cast themselves on the neurotic end of the sanity spectrum. As poetry editor, Renée Ashley, hollered at me from the other end of a long hallway—in response to my request last summer that she give me some of her own work to publish—“there’s no real choice, Minna, it has to be for Therapy! That’s where I fit in best.”
We are all casting our dreams as word pictures, building castles for our inner child, and, as Frank Bidart (interviewed in these pages) would say, still wrestling with Mother.
The inception of this theme came from a student thesis paper delivered at the summer session of Fairleigh Dickinson’s MFA program. “Is therapeutic poetry, therapy, or poetry?” she asked. And then proceeded to present a selection of poems about incest, some of which were great works of art and others of which were piteous, yes, but had the aethestic vigor of a shopping list. We then made the assumption that it would be a delightful and worthwhile endeavor to find the therapy in the art, rather than the other way around. Which engendered responses from our contributors, like that from Mary Rose O’Reilley: “Carl Jung could curl up in the bathtub with these poems til the waters rose, though none are explicit about therapy.” Perfect!
And so, what to do with a theme that articulates the underlying mood of most creative expression, while avoiding the shopping lists and the bearded doctors settling back into plush leather armchairs? Go nuts, of course, and just include everything else.
Curl up in a bathtub and enjoy our selections. We promise, you will not be cured.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Carol Singers
On an Invitation to Revisit
A Rare Condition
might come to rest
On the Whereabouts of a Mouse Studying to Be a Rat
Joi de Vivre
On How Your Downfall Quells My Angst
“Mystery Piano Found Deep in Cape Cod Woods”
The First Time I Was Told To Fuck Myself
Breathing Under Water
Mary Rose O’Reilley
Reading Anna Karenina on the Empire Builder
Where Does the Mind Go When It Refuses To Leave
Contemplation within the Framework of the Dream
My Father Is Ashes
All My Suicides Have Been Men
The True Definition of Fat
Help Me, Christina
The Marriage of the Strawman and the Patchwork Girl
The True Definition of Fat
Translated by Karen Emmerich
Other People’s Boredom
The Amazing Dreamer Stays Awake
We Have the Answer to the Apocalypse
The Cave at Elgon
Sugar, Wine, Smoke and Glue
The Last Seal Pup
Rand B. Lee
Girl, Breastless, Dancing
H. L. Hix
In Conversation with Frank Bidart
The Adderall Diaries: A Memoir of Mood, Masochism, and Murder
by Jena Salon
From Grace Received
by Cassie Hay
If I Were Another
by Paul-Victor Winters
Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays
by Marion Wyce
by Christine Condon
The Halfway House
by Abigail Deutsch
Wish and Weight
Walter Martin & Paloma Muñoz
(Courtesy of the artists and PPOW, NY)
As a writer, an artist and a semi-crazed, menopausal older woman, I’ve had my share of therapy. If one could illustrate that innate, morbid curiosity which draws us to examine those dark, quirky and often profoundly disturbing aspects of life, one might end up with something like the work of Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz, featured on our cover this issue.
“Wish and Weight” is part of an ongoing series that was recently featured in the exhibition “Islands,” at the P.P.O.W. Gallery in New York City. A disconsolate man stands alone in a forest on a snowy night. His outsized head rests against a leaf-bare tree, the lurid orange of his sweater and hair starkly contrasts the gloomy despair. His head is so big, so weighty, so unbearably too much.
For the Travelers series, Martin and Muñoz have created a progression of miniature dioramas and snowy globes, each one with the tongue-in-cheek charm of a Brueghel snow scene combined with deeply unsettling images; minute suicides, murders, eminent and present disasters—all dancing in that surprisingly narrow margin between serenity and despair.
Whether peering in at these tiny, dark allegories or viewing the large macro-photographs of the work, I can’t help but identify with the figures in each tiny, perfect world, captured in that single, breathless moment when the dream becomes a nightmare.
Martin and Muñoz have been collaborating since 1994. Their time, and a wealth of tiny supplies, is divided between residences in the south of Spain, a converted guitar factory in Brooklyn and their home in rural Pennsylvania. Their work is exhibited worldwide and is included in the collections of Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, La Caixa in Barcelona, Spain, and the KIASMA Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Finland. The Travelers series was published as a book last year by Aperture.