Monday, February 16, 2004


Thanks, I am about to go online again just to check that article. It
sounds like an interesting definition of depression which appears to
define it ultimately as affective zero or a catatonic line which would
have connections with aspects of Gothic and Baroque poetics. Silvan
Tomkins theory is somewhat different, perhaps, since I haven't yet read
the article, in that depression is a complex of interest,
shame-humiliation and anguish so it is not the absence of emotion but a
complex of affects which he defines as the depressive posture. In
Tomkins there is no essential distinction between affect psychology and
philosophy and I am assuming art or poetry, or at least I have yet to
find one which could be considered essential. Having said that, it is
still extremely important not to confuse the differences between art and
writing as therapy and what professional artists and writers do. (Using
that word professional with the required skepticism.) I know this from
my own professional background, more so. When I am employed to do
therapy in the broad sense of health care and use certain aspects of
creative writing in group situations or even individually that this is
very different and far more limited then what I would do as writer.
There are writing techniques that would be irresponsible to use or teach
in therapy situations. The emphasis and expected outcomes are different,
also. A complex discussion but I am sure Tom would be familiar with the

A little story from the other side of psychology which I find amusing. I
was interstate doing some research and became very ill with fatigue and
disassociation and as a result ended up being diagnosed with clinical
depression in the public health system by a junior doctor. I was then
stuffed so full of drugs that I became even more disorientated and
confused but I must have had enough survival instinct left to know that
if I refused the medication and refused to see the psychologist I would
be locked up. When I saw this psychologist, being right out the door on
powerful anti-depressant drugs and enough prescribed narcotic to kill a
normal human I admitted to being a poet and got asked if I had ever been
published to which I said yes and then got asked where was the last time
I was published to which I replied New York and gave a major publishers
name. As a result possible delusional psychosis got added to my case and
I was sent to a psychiatrist for further assessment. He gave me a script
for even more powerful anti-depressants which were something like taking
a tab of Ecstasy each morning for breakfast. On my second visit to the
psychologist I took my book and cv with me and that resolved that little
problem, somewhat, but I still had the clinical depression diagnosis
hanging over my head which meant that I could still be locked up for
non-compliance under the mental health act. Anyway, after about four
weeks the illness began to abate and I managed to get a bus ticket out
of town, packed up what possessions I could carry and fled back to New
South Wales where I was then diagnosed by doctors who knew me with
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The moral of the story, never admit to a
strange doctor that you are an internationally published poet.

best wishes

Chris Jones.

On Sun, 2004-02-15 at 14:54, tom bell wrote:
> Chris (and all),
> It might be of interest here that I am developing a dialog between ela
> kotakowska and Alsion Croggan on depression [the absence of emotion] for a
> future column in MAG
> tom bell
Chris Jones
posted by Thomas 2:01 PM

Thursday, February 12, 2004

I like the use of 'anguish' for the romantic view of depression and suicidal
artists that seems so easy and common these days. I like anguish because
clearly creativity and joy can spring from anguish. Clinically it is also
helpful to think in those terms as the easy coupling of depression and
suicide doesn't work - the truly DEPRESSED don't have the energy or
inclination to act. "Agitated depression" is a clinical concept that might
equate to anguish except that 'agitated' connotes fear and trembling without

tom bell
posted by Thomas 9:36 PM

Sunday, February 08, 2004

From "ela kotkowska"

"i don't know to what extent we can identify depression with "pre-lyrical
anxiety". | depression seems to be characterized more by the absence of
desire, a feeling of fatigue, disinterest, etc. ....."

Clinically, "depression" is typically seen as the absence of feeling rather
than it being a feeling in itself. It is this absence that medication
treats. There are, of course, many kinds of depression both clinically and
in literature

ela (and others) I would be honored to dialogue with you as part of the
column I've started at
posted by Thomas 9:44 PM

I like the idea of 'depression' as an aesthetic condition.
To muddy the waters even more I am starting to think of an aesthetic
condition that I call 'verboten' in that in this post modern world some
topics like feelings are verboten according to many editors. That is, if
you write about personal feelings be prepared for rejection? Augie Highland
(editor of MAG and I had
a phone discussion of this awhile back.

tom bell

----- Original Message -----
From: "Alison Croggon"
Sent: Sunday, February 08, 2004 3:44 PM
Subject: Re: brain trauma and depression (fwd)/why "anti-modern"?

> I'm puzzled by this too - weren't a lot of modernists famously depressed?
> were they anti-modern modernists? Or are all real modernists happy? Is it
> anti-modern to get depressed in a Corbursier flatlet? Was Celan
> and Blaise Cendrars, and Ezra Pound, and Virginia Woolf and HD and all
> others? Is Barry MacSweeney an anti-modern poet? Is depression an
> condition?
> A
> On 9/2/04 9:26 AM, "tom bell" wrote:
> > I am to some extent aware when I am being 'anti-modern' and I think most
> > depressed people are also and this is one distinction from TBI? I
wonder if
> > 'anti-modern' might characterize poetry written by the 'depressed'. On
> > other hand much poetry that is 'depressed' about today's society has
reason to
> > be depressed much the same way that someone grieving has 'reason' to be
> > depressed.
> Alison Croggon
> Editor, Masthead
> Home page
> Blog
posted by Thomas 2:07 PM

Saturday, February 07, 2004
posted by Thomas 9:49 PM

Friday, February 06, 2004

Thanks for posting. One of the things I'm finding is that
psychologists (including me) and neuro people have not done well in
informing the general population about such things as depression (which for
some reason is seen as stigmatizing as you point out). The APA
does a good job of this but I suspect their site is not high up on search
engines - actually a search did turn up some worthwhile sites even if it did
not hit apa. I tend to blame this on the popular media but maybe I'm
talking myself into writing something.
Damasio has a couple of books out and I'm reviewing _The Anatomy of Hope
by Groopman which should be out this month. I'd appreciate any other sources
might be aware of?

There's no rush on the dialogue. I'm months ahead on the column.

tom bell


Columnist for MAG

Some not right for Hallmark poetry available through

some hyperwork available through
Section editor for PsyBC

Write for the Health of It course at

not yet a crazy old man
hard but not yet hardening of the
posted by Thomas 9:35 PM

----- Original Message -----
From: David-Baptiste Chirot
Sent: Friday, February 06, 2004 1:12 PM
Subject: Re: Touorette's anyone?/Jim Eisenreich

A person you might want to look into is Jim Eisenreich--very good professional baseball player--in the Major Leagues--he had Tourette's--used to be ridden mercilessly by fans as he played the outfield and they could hear him when he had his spells--swearing and making strange sounds--

he was out of baseball for a bit to get treatment, and when he returned, playing as well as ever--was giving ovations wherever he went for his courage--after the pain people hadinflicted on him--

another ball player (among many) who played with mental difficulties--many wild and bizarre episodes--Jimmy Piersall--wrote a book of his experinces, recovery and return to baseball after being in instituitons--FEAR STRIKES OUT--was made into a film starring Anthony Perkins--

You should be able to find quite a bit on Jim Eisenreich (i used to have his baseball card) as lot was written about him--saw him play many times on tv, Minnesota Twins vs. Milwaukee Brewers back when the Brewers still in the American League--

>From: Vernon Frazer
>Reply-To: UB Poetics discussion group
>Subject: Re: Touorette's anyone?
>Date: Thu, 5 Feb 2004 15:57:27 -0500
>Actually, Tourette's isn't any one "state," but several thousand. We're
>human beings with supercharged central nervous systems. Yes, I do experience
>f rushes that allow me to experience a certain kind of manic energy that has
>elements of the ecstatic or the possessed about it. You'll find that energy
>in a lot of my writing or in my jazz poetry recordings. But I also walk
>around pretty much normally, glad for the sun and muttering about the bad
>drivers. Tourette's is a much more complicated condition than anything I've
>described on this list. I've described my own life, one hair or freckle on a
>vast body. Kirby, your next-door neighbor was an interesting example of a
>more severe case.
>Maybe I was unclear. I intended to say that I think religious experience is
>more common than we believe. You just have to find the stimulus
>---sanctified church, Coltrane solo, skydiving---that brings you to the
>ecstatic moment. It doesn't have to do with Tourette, just how certain
>experiences elevate people's passions to an exalted level.
>Robert, how can I obtain Bedford's "/ (slant)"? I'm always interested in
>seeing how accurately other authors portray people with Tourette. Most of
>the ones I've read have been pretty close, if not 100% on.

Plan your next US getaway to one of the super destinations here.
posted by Thomas 12:47 PM

(note to self: don't use the l word when writing the l--t)

I was struck by some intuitions I had at a Martin Amis reading from
"Yellow Dog." The premise of that novel is that the main protagonist,
formerly a reformed "sensitive" middle-aged man, receives a knock on the
head and begins regressing to sort of imagined neanderthal and hence the
image of a knuckle-dragging, unreformed male.

Now, the faculty from the UW have recently published research that
correlate TBI (traumatic brain injury) with depression, substance abuse,
etc. What I was struck by in the Amis' account of his protagonist was how
the character's state of mind could as easily have been the result of
depression, particularly the bigotry that he starts to spout, as if the
brain shuts down more complex modes of thinking since they lead to very
causes of the depression.

While I don't want to pathologize what I think of as aberrant modes of
thinking, nor to make depression more stigmatized--despite the press that
depression has received, it still lingers in some repressive twilight even
in our health care system, which is unfortunate because what the victim of
depression needs most is sympathetic (and comprehending) attention--but I
am curious about the nexus of TBI, substance abuse, depression, and what I
think of as anti-modernist thought.

Whew. A lot there. Please do unpack, correct, or explicate as necessary.


Robert Corbett, Ph.C. "Given the distance of communication,
Coordinator of New Programs I hope the words aren't idling on the
B40D Gerberding map of my fingertips, but igniting the
Phone: (206) 616-0657 wild acres within the probabilities of
Fax: (206) 685-3218 spelling" - Rosmarie Waldrop
UW Box: 351237
posted by Thomas 12:46 PM

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Minimag out at
posted by Thomas 11:54 AM

Thursday, January 15, 2004

First of all, what hell is "healthy poetry" exactly? Is it something that
compels emotions from both the author and reader or is it something that
would be printed on a coffee mug or calendar? Having read Bush's poetry,
I'm inclined to think the latter.
Any poet who reads this article ought to be outraged. The chilling effect
these measures could have on our art is staggering. What would this
amendment allow or, for that matter, take away? Will federal funds be taken
away from writing programs that don't fit the mold? Will schools lose
funding if they don't teach a certain lesson plan?
The only thing you can hope for if this measure passes is that the backlash
creates a more subversive poetry culture.

>From: Ian Randall Wilson
>Reply-To: UB Poetics discussion group
>Subject: What do you think? A good use of 1.5 billion?
>Date: Thu, 15 Jan 2004 19:16:56 EST
>January 14, 2004
>Bush Plans $1.5 Billion Drive for Promotion of Poetry
>WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 â?" Administration officials say they are planning an
>extensive election-year initiative to promote poetry, especially among
>poets, and they are weighing whether President Bush should promote the plan
>next week in his State of the Union address.
>For months, administration officials have worked with conservative groups
>the proposal, which would provide at least $1.5 billion for training to
>people develop interpersonal writing skills that sustain "healthy poetry."
>The officials said they believed that the measure was especially timely
>because they were facing pressure from conservatives eager to see the
>government defend traditional poetry, after a decision by the highest court
>Massachusetts. The court ruled in November that language poetry is
>under the state's Constitution.
>"This is a way for the president to address the concerns of conservatives
>to solidify his conservative base," a presidential adviser said.
>Several conservative Christian advocacy groups are pressing Mr. Bush to go
>further and use the State of the Union address to champion a constitutional
>amendment prohibiting language poetry. Leaders of these groups said they
>confused by what they saw as the administration's hedging and hesitation
>concerning an amendment.
>Administration officials said they did not know if Mr. Bush would mention
>amendment, but they expressed confidence that his poetry promotion plan
>please conservatives.
>Ronald T. Haskins, a Republican who has previously worked on Capitol Hill
>at the White House under Mr. Bush, said, "A lot of conservatives are very
>pleased with the healthy poetry initiative. We need the world to make
>The proposal is the type of relatively inexpensive but politically potent
>initiative that appeals to White House officials at a time when they are
>by growing federal budget deficits.
>It also plays to Mr. Bush's desire to be viewed as a "compassionate
>conservative," an image he sought to cultivate in his 2000 campaign. This
>administration officials said, Mr. Bush will probably visit programs trying
>to raise
>poetry awareness in poor neighborhoods.
>"The president loves to do that sort of thing in the inner city with black
>churches, and he's very good at it," a White House aide said.
>In the last few years, some liberals have also expressed interest in
>poetry-education programs. They say a growing body of statistical evidence
>that children fare best, financially and emotionally when exposed to poetry
>early, in a two-poet family.
>The president's proposal may not be enough, though, for some conservative
>groups that are pushing for a more emphatic statement from him opposing
>"We have a hard time understanding why the reserve," said Glenn T. Stanton,
>policy analyst at Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian
>"You see him inching in the right direction. But the question for us is,
>this inching? Why not just get there? Rhyme is healthy!"
>The Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, chairman of a national group called the
>Traditional Poesy Coalition, has started an e-mail campaign urging Mr. Bush
>to push for
>an amendment opposing the legal recognition of language poetry. "The stuff
>doesn't make any sense," Sheldon says, "and we have to get it out of our
>Other groups, like the Southern Baptist Convention and Focus on the Family,
>are pushing more quietly for the same thing, through contacts with White
>officials, especially Karl Rove, the president's chief political aide, who
>taken a personal interest in maintaining contacts with evangelical groups.
>In an interview with ABC News last month, Mr. Bush was asked if he would
>support a constitutional amendment against language poetry.
>"If necessary," he said, "I will support a constitutional amendment which
>would honor poetry as something that should rhyme and make sense, codify
>and will â?" the position of this administration is that whatever poetry
>want to write, they're allowed to write, so long as it's traditional and
>embraced by the state."
>Asked to cite the circumstances in which a constitutional amendment might
>needed, Trent Duffy, a White House spokesman, said on Tuesday, "That is a
>decision the president has to make in due time."
>The House of Representatives has approved a proposal to promote poetry as
>part of a bill to reauthorize the 1996 communications law, but the bill is
>down in the Senate.
>Without waiting for Congress to act, the administration has retained
>consultants to help state and local government agencies, community
>organizations and
>religious groups develop poetry-promotion programs.
>Wade F. Horn, the assistant secretary of health and human services, said:
>"Poetry programs do work. On average, children raised by two poets hearing
>healthy, stable traditional forms enjoy better physical and mental health
>and are
>less likely to be poor."
>Prof. Linda J. Waite, a demographer and sociologist at the University of
>Chicago, compiled an abundance of evidence to support such assertions in
>the book
>"The Case for Poetry" (Tripleday, 2000). Ms. Waite, a former president of
>Population Poetry Association of America, said she was a liberal Democrat,
>not active in politics.
>Some women's groups like the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund oppose
>government programs that promote traditional poetry. "Such programs intrude
>personal privacy, and may coerce women to write in ways they don't want to
>write," said Timothy J. Casey, a lawyer at the fund.
>Administration officials said their goal was "healthy poetry," not poetry
>its own sake.
>"We know this is a sensitive area," Dr. Horn said. "We don't want to come
>with a heavy hand. All services will be voluntary. We want to help poets,
>especially low-income poets, manage their writing in healthy ways. We know
>how to
>teach problem-solving, negotiation and listening skills. This initiative
>not force anyone to write in any particular way. The last thing we'd want
>to increase the rate of writer's block."
>Under the president's proposal, federal money could be used for specific
>activities like advertising campaigns to publicize the value of poetry,
>instruction in poetry skills and mentoring programs that use traditional
>poets role
>Federal officials said they favored education programs that focus on high
>school students; young adults interested in poetry; and poets who marry
>writers are thought to have the greatest commitment to their art.
>Alan M. Hershey, a senior fellow at Mathematica Policy Research in
>N.J., said his company had a $19.8 million federal contract to measure the
>effectiveness of such programs. Already, Mr. Hershey said, he is providing
>technical assistance to poetry-education projects in Alabama, Florida,
>Indiana, Louisiana, New Mexico and Texas.
>A major purpose, he said, is to help people "communicate about all the
>you see in poems: money, sex, child-raising and other difficult issues that
>come up."
>Dr. Horn said that federal money for poetry promotion would be available
>to traditional writers. As a federal official, he said, he is bound by a
>statute, the Defense of Poetry Act, which defined poetry for any program
>established by Congress. The law states, "The word `poetry' means only a
>which rhymes and makes sense."
>But Dr. Horn said: "I don't have any problem with the government providing
>support services to other kinds of poetry. If someone wants to write
>poetry, okay, that's their choice."
>Sheri E. Steisel, a policy analyst at the National Conference of State
>Legislatures, said, "The Bush administration has raised this issue to the
>level, but state legislators of both parties are interested in offering
>education to low-income poets."

posted by Thomas 6:04 PM

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