Instead of publishing a standard book of poetry, Erica Loberg has teamed up with John Brusseau to self-publish a volume that combines poems with analysis of those poems. In Screaming at the Void: An Expedition into the Heart of a Contemporary Poet, Loberg — who also writes a blog for Psych Central — offers poems related to her bipolar II disorder, as well as commentary on her own work. Then, Brusseau attempts to shed further light on each one of the poems as well, page for page.
Fittingly, the volume opens with these lines: “Wild rapture underneath the subway light / Tearing your eyes around to find him / Someone to dissect in your writing mind / Or talk to.”
Brusseau writes that Loberg’s story is the same as Cinderella’s. In general, he makes a comparison between the Cinderella story and the life of a patient with bipolar disorder. Meanwhile, Loberg’s poetry expresses depression, anger, and frustration. Her language is relatively direct. In “Depression is a Bedroom Wall,” Loberg writes: “I find hope that my next step / Will be more than hours of watching a wall / Even entertainment in the red paint / That gives me a color to watch.”
Loberg explains in her commentary that the poem is both a poem about depression but also about the “salvation” of finding something mundane to do when you cannot get out of bed.
For most of the poems, Brusseau’s analysis seems to be on point, clarifying the correlation between Loberg’s poetry and her bipolar disorder. There are a few poems, though, particularly the ones that speak about Loberg’s relationships with men, that do not seem to be bipolar specific.
For instance, “I’ll Call you Tomorrow” is about her experience with a man who said he’d call her tomorrow and did not. Brusseau attempts to connect the poem to the disorder, writing, “She has needed an identity, and that has rendered her bipolar, seeking her identity in the opposite poles of too much and not enough.”
However, it seems this poem speaks more to an experience common among many people in the dating world. The frustration of not being called the next day is one that has been discussed time and time again in sitcoms, movies, and books. Sex and the City, a show Loberg herself references in a few of the poems, examines this experience in more than one episode. Many of us can relate.
So, perhaps not all of the poems are entirely specific to Loberg’s bipolar disorder. Regardless, the volume provides an interesting glimpse into one woman’s thoughts, and some insight into a serious mental health issue.
Screaming at the Void: An Expedition into the Heart of a Contemporary Poet
Depth of View Publishing, July 2015