I’ve been debating whether or not to go here, but here goes: I’ve been pretty depressed lately. Some days, it’s really difficult to get going, and I dog myself with all the stuff I didn’t accomplish. As the weather warms, so does my mood, and, yes, there’s a book for it, too. Poets on Prozac offers a mental health perspective that is sympathetic to folks enduring a “depressive episode.”
Edited by Dr. Richard M. Berlin, the book is a collection of essays by well-known, established American poets. The topics are specific to depression and its affect on creativity, and each poet’s struggle with pharmaceuticals. (Treating chronic depression with pills is an emerging science, so each of us is a guinea pig of sorts for the mental health community.)
Apart from the entertaining narratives and relentless honesty of each essay, my favorite part of the book is the comparisons the poets make to their poetry before then after receiving chemical treatment. The telling result is the poems seem much more fresh when the writers are feeling mentally balanced. A common fear among artists is that depression feeds the creative spirit, yet this book proves the opposite.
Work created under a cloud of depression tends toward a narrow worldview, lacking in humor and joy. In particular, I love J.D. Smith’s pre and post depression poems, but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be one written in his happier state of mind. To wit, I leave you with an example: “Pistachios” (J.D. Smith)
Clams of dry land/suspended mid-gape,/they are, as well, truncated/busts of hatchlings that peep/for an imminent feeding,/and parentheses, poised/to shelter a digression.