Is This Scary?
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.
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.