A challenging exploration of mental illness and disability from Governor General’s Award winner Jacob Scheier.
Is This Scary? digs deep into internal landscapes of suffering, including depression and anxiety, chronic physical ailment, and rare neurological malady. With its many eccentric songs and odes to medications and medical procedures, this book is full of both levity and unapologetic lament. Pushing back against societal stigma, Is This Scary? unflinchingly addresses experiences of psychiatric institutionalization and suicidality, without either romanticizing or pathologizing them. Scheier rejects much of the mainstream cultural views of mental illness, subverting the biochemical model by emphasizing the radical subjectivity of mental suffering. While the poems render the difficulty of communicating pain to others, they defiantly celebrate its expression and evocation through visceral lyricism.
Scheier also challenges our culture’s desire to be inspired by stories of “triumphing” over illness and disability. Nothing is overcome here, the journey from illness to wellness is one of narrative and aesthetic disruption. The perpetually incomplete search for self and home is ultimately at the heart of this book: along with being a person with disabilities, the poet-speaker identifies as a Diaspora-Jew, engaging exile as a chronic state of being that isn’t intended to be resolved, but rather explored, expressed, and honored.
Ode to Prednisone
Herr Pill! You murder sleep.
Eugenicist Cortisol, re-make me—
ox-strong, moon-faced, onioned-skin.
Hugs are dangerous.
Performance-enhancing drug for poets—
you triple feelings. Elegies for the late train & spilled milk.
Anxiety is Everything.
Threatened by the light that brightens the dark.
Dread tolerates Ativan.
Faustian Chemical, you resurrect myths
like Lazarus. He was never the same.
I’ve been to that shore the dead clamour for.
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Jacob Scheier is a Toronto-based poet, essayist, and journalist. He is the author of two previous poetry collections, including the Governor General’s Award–winning more to More to Keep Us Warm (ECW, 2007). His poems, articles, and essays have appeared in journals, magazines, and anthologies across North America.
Published: April 2021
Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5 in.
“Sharp, insightful and often acerbically funny … This is work that’s both witty and affecting.” — Toronto Star
“Jacob Scheier’s poetic voice has matured into a contemplative, piercing one that makes distinctions with a real difference … Scheier’s diagnoses — both physical and mental in the Descartian binary — become unified, beautiful songs in this book of poems that tries to differentiate what it sees so precisely and, after coming up against the limits of language, the book presses on, describing the process of piecing together what is and can be known. ” — Shane Neilson, poet and author of New Brunswick and Dysphoria
“The poems combine the observational, the blunt, and occasionally the explicit in an episodic narrative, capturing the absurd, the mundane, and everything in between. If anything can emulate the enduring effects of poor mental health, it’s the contents of this book about mental health.” — Rain Taxi Review of Books
“Jacob Scheier’s poetry yanks you back to the septic-antiseptic psych ward, the dissociation of drowning in suicidality, the mad-scientist feeling of psychotropic medication. It reminds you how vital it is to be understood, even when enduring what's impossible to convey.” — Anna Mehler Paperny, author of Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me
“Scheier’s writing is honest, fierce, self-critical — and yet because the poet’s vision is large, he finds compassion for himself and for others. A powerful collection.” — James Arthur, author of The Suicide’s Son