August 6, 2009

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We Mad Climb Shaky Ladders, by Pamela Spiro Wagner, CavanKerry Press, 2009, 120 pages
By Dan Szczesny dszczesny@hippopress.com

By the time you get to Pamela Spiro Wagner’s first poem, the reader is already depressed. We Mad Climb... is a memoir-like collection that deals, excruciatingly, with Wagner’s 25-year long struggle with paranoid schizophrenia. She also is narcoleptic and has Lyme disease. Several of the poems have lead-ins by Wagner’s actual psychiatrist, along with the poet, explaining the roots of some of the prose.

While it’s commendable that Wagner has been able to deal with her afflictions through her prose, that kind of artistic healing process does not always make for good poetry. Given the extent of her recovery process, her writing is mundane, as though she’s unwilling or unable to truly examine the nature of her illness and its meaning. A paranoid person writing about her paranoia is not terribly interesting.

Stick to the lead-ups between Wagner and her psychiatrist for insight and reflection. C