Flying Wounded

Flying Wounded

Book - 2000
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"Surrounded by falling stars and pieces of broken heart, Flying Wounded flies straight into the eye of madness. The book is a striking portrait of the ignorance of earlier times, and of a mother/daughter relationship that is part nightmare, part legacy. In language sometimes lyrical, sometimes straightforward as a shriek, Susan McCaslin writes about the tangled darkness of mental illness with great courage and resolve."--Barry Dempster, author of Fire and Brimstone

Flying Wounded , Susan McCaslin's seventh book of poetry, is a daring exploration of the disturbance wreaked on a daughter by her mother's ill-treated, then untreated, mental illness and of the daughter's almost miraculous transformation. The first half of the book charts the decline of the mother, "a boisterous southern woman of voluminous laughter" who finds herself "incarcerated in an inquisitional tower." The tower is both the asylum (a university hospital) and, later, her own phobic existence as a "mall bag lady."

In her preface, McCaslin makes the point that, because the sixties was a time of drug-prescribed treatment for the mentally ill, her mother was probably one of legions of "hysterical women" used as guinea pigs. This should, then, be a gloomy book. But the energy of the language McCaslin uses to describe the day-to-day battles of the protagonists infuses it with wit, love, and something like grim hilarity--apparent in the ending of "Don't Put Me in Order":

I like my raucous mouth
and my boundless skirts.
You are not to do my laundry
or check my personal hygiene.
It upsets me. And leave
those empty pizza cartons
in the fridge. I may
find use for them.
I am stubborn as Jehovah
and as likely to rage
if you irritate me.

This woman is not sinking gracefully into madness but fighting with the force of a female Lear.
The effect of living with, then distancing herself from, her mother's illness is depicted in the second half of the book. The daughter does not escape unharmed. McCaslin courageously describes some of the fears, obsessions, and psychosomatic symptoms she has experienced and worked through, as in the poem titled "Fragility":

Smile mask in place
you carry yourself
on stilts
tall as a Wedgwood chamber

dancing the porcelain woman
erect
who is cool
and pale as white silk

With amazing objectivity and delicacy of language, McCaslin transforms pain into the beauty of art.

Susan McCaslin is an instructor of English and creative writing at Douglas College in New Westminster, British Columbia. She is the author of six books of poetry, including Oracular Heart and Letters to William Blake , and the editor of the anthology A Matter of Spirit: Recovery of the Sacred in Contemporary Canadian Poetry . She lives with her husband and daughter in Port Moody.

Publisher: Gainesville : University Press of Florida, c2000
ISBN: 9780813017969
0813017963
9780813017976
0813017971
Branch Call Number: 819.1 MCC
Characteristics: 81 p. ;,23 cm

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