A heart-rending poetic commentary on the pain, anxiety and dissatisfaction that go hand-in-hand with mental illness, and on the complex and emotional interplay between doctor, patient and outsider.
Shane Neilson’s Dysphoria fearlessly confronts mental illness from all sides, taking the perspective of patient, doctor and observer. It explodes with love and longing, passion and fear. It wails to the strains of Percy Sledge and rides alongside Mad Max—crazy, but with a good guy’s badge. It suffers the indignities of therapeutic measures and faces the helplessness of a parent witnessing his child’s suffering.
In Neilson’s own words, Dysphoria ‘throws acid from half-glasses but drinks some first to be fair.’
Excerpt from book
Emotion distilled into ampoules, the inoculate
roaring at the head of the needle—who needs
depot when the body’s flooded with feeble?
Perhaps the lobotomy was the right thing to do,
back when you said you understood me and, ha,
no—I understood you. In the car park, at Big Park,
Little Park, in grocery aisles, in community rinks;
past security checkpoints and through turnstiles,
it was all darkness. To the coasts, I roar:
When a man loves a woman, he can’t keep his mind.
Oh needle of lonesome, here’s my ass one more time.
Last night, you asked ‘How does it feel?’
Percy? Sing for us? She can bring him such misery
if she plays him for a fool. This anthem serves the lost
in lieu of help; that’s how it feels, old and good
bodies. Raise your right index finger and say
goodbye to the fool that points between your
eyes. The sensor never lies. It identifies.
Earth, Fire, Air, Water
The cry of pain is life —Bichat
Feel your cells.
They dwell in the drama you set,
that spell of forget and remember.
Cells are demented elephants,
atolls that move in storms.
Heaven or hell is the Brownian motion.
From the sky: portents and weather, the impetus.
In Hooke’s eye, pain is an organelle.
Cells die together, as do we.
En masse, the telos is alone,
for me, that’s never true.
I will die thinking of you. I will die thinking.
Of you, the pain says nothing. You are.
What I say, and sing, for I am in pain,
and have always been: I am alive.
Pain is not the cry.
The cry is that I think of you,
I think of life.
This passionate and illuminating book is like no other in our literature: a new classic.
—M. Travis Lane
Shane Neilson is a poet and physician who, in addition to several collections of poetry, has published in the genres of memoir, short fiction, biography and literary criticism. He is currently a fellow of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, a Vanier Scholar at McMaster University and editor for Victoria, B.C. publisher Frog Hollow Press. Though he lives in Oakville, Ontario, all of his work is rooted in rural New Brunswick.