What is Poles about?
Poles is an exploration of Bipolar Disorder. I was diagnosed with BP2 in 2001, and began a very chaotic journey that has taken me through many varied experiences with the mental health system, taught me more about myself than I think would ever have come to the surface otherwise and provided countless opportunities for me to see the hand of God on my life, keeping me from the worst possible outcomes of having a complex mental health disorder.
Poles captures (as much as a poem can) the sensation I sometimes experience when having an episode, in particular, the mania side of episodes. Molasses, another poem in the book (buy the book!) sheds light on the opposite side of the coin but you’ll have to wait for that one 🙂
What is the significance of the structure of this poem?
Originally, Poles ran down the page in one long line but when I began formatting the piece for the book, I realised it would lose its energy if it was split over two pages. Then I tried using two columns on the one page and that’s where the magic began to happen.
Up until last week when one of my Facebook friends pointed out the two poles, I had not consciously noticed them. Which shows me that even the poet can miss what they are saying or revealing in a piece! But I love that they mentioned this because it strengthens the piece and compliments the concept of how Bipolar presents itself (for me, at least) as a swing from one side to the other.
The use of unconventional formatting is further strengthened by playing with the letters of words. In this piece, I have used quite a bit, again hoping to deepen the imagery and create more disconnect between emotions as they swing from side to side.
What is my favourite line in this piece?
I would have to say that ‘suspend me over the bridge’ is my favourite line in this piece. When I speak the poem out loud I find I always produce more emphasis on the word suspend and see the image of a person being suspended, half on the bridge, half over the railing, feet not touching the floor – suspended in mid-air.
My feeling is that this moment captures the reality of living with bipolar disorder – the bridge is the place of balance and I am suspended between hypomania and depression, teetering on a finely tuned edge. Life isn’t always like this, but when things begin to swing, this is what it feels like, sometimes even physically.
What have I learned about my life from writing Poles
Writing Poles gave me a visual and audible representation of the dichotomy of bipolar disorder and helped me see the reality of what that might look like to others as well. Putting it on the page created a stronger sense of that reality and I think also provided a way for me to acknowledge that this is what my life is like, for me and those who do life with me. I am reminded, too, that my illness is manageable and I have learned to recognise some of the signals I need to see when things begin to swing and this has helped me immensely.
I hope my little exploration of Poles has been an interesting read for you. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the poem, or on your own journey – please share in the comments.