Primal Sin

An apple tree
And a mystery red
Is knowledge evil
Or the best thing yet?
Why are men
Chastised for knowing;
Why ignorance is still
Considered bliss?

Memoryscape

Memoryscape

They say sights make lasting memories and a touch imprints forever. However, it was the smells that lie splattered across her memory-scape. This story traces an olfactory journey of a lifetime as she put pieces together, wondering what lies next.

1980 – It is the smell of soap – an expensive luxury bar of white soap. The silhouette of a man with that soapy fragrance is still vivid. She was barely 3-years old. She can recognize that smell anywhere but does not come across it often. She cannot remember who he was, yet the distinct memory captures her. 

She frets that she needs to dig deeper into the recesses and find out why the fragrance of that soap and the man are so alive in her mind even after 40 years. There are no answers; she does not even know whether that time was good or bad; whether that memory points to any event in her life. The lack of an answer makes her uncomfortable as they remind her of an unknown man and his soapy odor from when she was barely a toddler.

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Book Review: Sober Thoughts from the Crazy House

The words flow, each better than the next, sometimes rhyming, sometimes like the churning of an ocean, thoughts dripping from every nook, every crevice. Each thought more relatable than the next, some philosophical, some mundane but the currents strong enough to wash you away.

Book: Sober Thoughts from the Crazy House

Author: J. Maxwell

Genre: Poetry, Self-Discovery

Review Copy: From the Author

Available on: Amazon.com

For Mental Health Awareness Month, I got the opportunity to read one of my favorite literary forms – poetry. J. Maxwell (Twitter @JMaxwell_Writer), author and illustrator’s debut poetry collection, Sober Thoughts from the Crazy House, is a candid evocation of his journey from mental health issues to a more sober approach to life.

One of the first steps to recovery, to solve issues permeating our lives, is to accept the situation and to seek help. J. Maxwell starts with the backstory of his struggles and how he overcame years of addiction and self-abuse. Words provided an artistic refuge. In searching for the words to express, Maxwell was seeking answers.

Many who have been lost and found their way will relate to the outpouring in the fluent verses. These words can be yours, mine – anyone who has grappled with self-doubt, self-disdain, guilt, shame, fear. You can imagine the poet scribbling on paper napkins and vagrant sheets, crumpled, torn at the edges, as he tries to find the meaning, define the terms in the textbook that are now a part of him. The anguish is palpable, yet with a glimmer of hope, for only those who seek shall receive.

The poems touch a vast array of experiences; hallucinations, anxiety, mania, depression, addiction, withdrawal, therapy. At a certain moment, I thought the formatting was juvenile, like children expanding alphabets to words in wordplay. However, each alphabet in Maxwell’s vocabulary dives into an intense experience with well-crafted interpretations. The words flow, each better than the next, sometimes rhyming, sometimes like the churning of an ocean, thoughts dripping from every nook, every crevice. Each thought more relatable than the next, some philosophical, some mundane but the currents strong enough to wash you away.

This is a book for those who can appreciate the beauty and depth of free verses. It can be perceived as a haven for the troubled mind, evolving from experiences in the “crazy house.” Maxwell’s poetic expressions are not only for those who want to know how they feel, how someone else in their position feels but also a must-have for caregivers and guides, for readers and learners. It is an insight into a mind filled with chaos, trying to find balance, all on its own, without reaching out for help.

When troubled souls can’t articulate, the sober writings from the recovering mind can be a guidebook. I find this to be a precious collection that I would recommend everyone to read because where thoughts overburden us only words can be saviors. I would have liked to see some illustrations along with the words, making it an immersive experience. I also found it hard to decipher the book cover* art work and would like some insight into it.

*The author reached out to me with a note: “The cover art is the underside of the bottom of a bottle. This was perfect since so many go looking for answers at the bottom of a bottle only to find there aren’t any. You have to get to the bottom to really find that out though.”

J. Maxwell’s work speaks of hope, of finding yourself, and of repeating the message:

Don’t judge yourself

Lest ye cast the first stone!

Social Media and the Problem of Plenty

Social media is exhausting, specially if you are intending to garner an audience or self-promote. There are myriad channels of communication and showcasing; all are craving your attention and content. If you are a writer, artist, or pursuing any creative channel, you are immediately in the snare of the social media octopus. There is Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and I am ignorant of so many other channels.

All demand that you place your content in the most presentable way, on each one of them. There is information and design overload – the same content flooding the data stream with tags and hashtags. More than the creative pursuit, it is the pressure of pushing your content into these channels to grab the maximum eyeballs. Social media feeds on your deep FOMO – fear of missing out – in showcasing your content and following the trends.

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