Just as saints appear to embody all the light around them, the possessed find no seam between the darkness within and the darkness without.
Or so it is with Jeanne, the heroine of Sandy Anderson's new collection of poems, "Jeanne Was Once a Player of Pianos" - a gorgeous little hand-press edition produced by Rick and Rosemary Ardinger of Limberlost Press.I call Jeanne a heroine with purpose.
Anyone who can deal with so many demons and survive has to be.
"I started this book back in 1968," Anderson says. "I didn't realize it was so autobiographical at the time. But now I think Jeanne is the person I would have become if I hadn't been lucky. I've had a lot of people helping me over the years."
Anderson, of course, has done her own share of helping. She directs the City Art Reading Series - often at her own expense - and not long ago received the Utah Arts Festival Mayor's Artist Award for her efforts.
But Anderson the arts administrator is a different cat from Anderson the poet.
The former is sunny, helpful, generous.
The latter likes to dig into the crevices of the brain where the snakes and spiders hide.
Writing in flat, declarative sentences, Anderson traces the terrain of a mental patient with haunting authenticity. This snippet from "Letter to Renoir" is typical.
The doctors say I am getting better,
So I am allowed cigarettes, paper.
I write this letter on the paper,
And the doctors are encouraged
By my anxiousness to contact
the outside world.
They tell me it is snowing,
And I envision monkeys
falling from trees,
Landing in snow.
These are sad, brave poems.
In his poem "John" from "Center for the Confused," Logan poet Ken Brewer tries to capture the anguish of life in a mental institution. Says John, "I am reversed and the gulls of darkness peck at my imagination like pieces of bread. I draw shadows across the morning, swallow them at night, sleep with them. . ."
John, say hello to Jeanne.