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This report is taken from PN Review 120, Volume 24 Number 4, March - April 1998.

Border Patrols Lawrence Sail

Among the most memorable lines of Yeats's 'Crazy Jane' poems are the two which conclude 'Crazy Jane talks to the Bishop', a characteristic statement of the necessarily dark starting-point for any notion of healing:

For nothing can be sole or whole
That has not been rent.

This, like the conclusion of 'The Circus Animals' Desertion', might be seen as one instance of the model, embodied in many myths and religions, of a journey through darkness as a condition of the light. It recurs in the juxtaposed association of blindness and insight, in the Romantic view of excess and madness, in Eliot's wounded surgeon plying the steel. And Crazy Jane herself resurfaces in a Richard Dadd drawing, 'Sketch of an Idea for Crazy Jane', inside the front cover of Beyond Bedlam1, an anthology edited by Ken Smith and Matthew Sweeney and subtitled 'Poems written out of mental distress'. The upshot of some 5,000 poems submitted to the Bethlem and Maudsley National Poetry Project, with royalties going to the Mental Health Foundation, Mind and Survivors' Poetry2, the book signals clearly the worth and worthiness of its intentions: no one here is playing Hamlet, or taking cover as a Bedlam beggar like Edgar in King Lear. The back cover promises 'poetry that is testament to the transforming power of the imagination, poetry that catches the reader in the full glare of its light, challenging the isolation, stigma and myths of mental illness': and a universal ...


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