This week’s Unsung Letter, written by Angelica Jade Bastién, is on a poetry collection that cuts deep, and on the image of the madwoman on celluloid and the page:
A few years ago a feeling I’ve had for a while crystallized into a theory I’ve come to call The Ophelia Factor. As an Afro-Latina with bipolar disorder since my early teens I have been devouring the stories and work of women who share this struggle. These women contain multitudes. They’re celluloid mavens like Marilyn Monroe in how she’s framed by photographer Eve Arnold and writer Truman Capote. They’re noir sirens like the diabolical femme fatale Gene Tierney played in the 1945 Technicolor Leave Her to Heaven. They’re genius wordsmiths like Sylvia Plath, perhaps the foremost image in modern times of a woman undone by her own mind. What unites these women beyond their mental illnesses are a concoction of curious factors. They’re young, beautiful, and white. So often the stories of mentally ill women are flattened into tragedies in which they aren’t the architect of their own destinies. Instead they’re cautionary tales.
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A recommendation this week of something a little different – a long poem in translation, brought to our attention by Ariell Cacciola:
It is a poem that hungrily gnaws on the antithetical senses of despair and sly humor. I couldn’t hazard a guess how many times I’ve read it (both the original and the translation) and I argue that you don’t even need to know the original German to understand the ricochet of language and anguish, the rubbery sense of voice that tugs the reader back and forth. I was lucky enough to have seen excerpts read publicly by both poet and translator, hearing the sound of each word and the relation to the next and then some.
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This week’s Unsung Letter comes to you courtesy of writer and editor of Necessary Fiction, Steve Himmer. What has he chosen to draw you to? A taste:
So it is also extremely funny in the bittersweet, laugh-or-you’ll-cry way life requires. It snuck up on me in a wonderful manner, seeming at first to be a kind of light urban fabulism. Then as characters and their tightly proscribed lives took shape, they revealed the complexities of immigration and bureaucracy and decidedly modern pains and isolations.
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