A Bruised Light
by Pamela Portwood
Publisher: Star Cloud Press
Year of Publication: 2006
Page Count: 61
In her debut collection of poetry, A Bruised Light, Pamela Portwood explores the lives of famous people reputed to have had epilepsy. Vincent Van Gogh, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, St. Teresa of Avila and Caligula are a few of those who speak of their epiphanies, their terrors and their lives through monologues in these poems. Portwood also captures her own epilepsy experiences to create a time made surreal by grand-mal seizures and medications. In another set of poems, she turns to epilepsy treatments, including the ancient Greeks' exotic, medicinal concoctions and the early Christians' elaborate prayer rites. Poet Karen Brennan describes the result as a collection of "intelligent, beautifully crafted poems," a book that is "bursting with color and lyric muscle."
Praise for A Bruised Light:
Pamela Portwood's A Bruised Light features some of the most influential figures in history, intriguingly hinting that it is "abnormal" minds, so often stigmatized with diagnostic labels, that have determined human history. Both heaven and hell are visionary and often unwelcome companions of the epileptic, the bipolar, the schizophrenic, but the works (and inventions and cataclysms) fired in the furnaces of their creativity are of such importance, both for better and worse, that it is a wonder that these conditions are stigmatized rather than envied. The "ecstasy before the darkness" Portwood cites as a feature of epilepsy is perhaps the only involuntary lightning storm one can survive repeatedly. The candor of Portwood's poetry is welcome in our culture of denial and evasion. May it inspire others to write about afflictions without ignoring their blessings!
—David Ray, author of The Death of Sardanapalus & Other Poems of the Iraq Wars, One Thousand Years: Poems About the Holocaust and The Endless Search: A Memoir.
In Pamela Portwood's magnificent debut collection, A Bruised Light, furniture is "glowing," a face is "a halo beside/ the lamp of an ordinary night," and limbs are "tingling": these details, the actual shifts in perceptions, just prior to the onset of epilepsy. Portwood wastes no pity on the broken, suffering body, but looks with unflinching eye on the particulars of this human condition ("I do what I can do,/ describe what I see"). Yet these poems also mine history wryly for its "Great Epileptic Leaders" (Caligula, Napoleon), its visionary artists and saints, its early, fruitless remedies ("if you vomit a drink of acacia,/ The sacred disease will plague you all of your life"). Here is the spare, redolent beauty of courage in a lyric key.
—Cynthia Hogue, author of the Incognito Body and Flux
In these intelligent, beautifully crafted poems, Pamela Portwood reflects upon the body's frailties and the unlike bounties of suffering: the great gifts of art and music and literature that survive. Bursting with color and lyric muscle, A Bruised Light is a tough, vibrant book and I admire it enormously.
—Karen Brennan, author of The Real Enough World
About the Author:
PAMELA PORTWOOD received a project award from the Arizona Commission on the Arts in support of writing A Bruised Light. Her poetry has been published in Borderlands, Toronto Review of Contemporary Writing Abroad, Visions International, Apalachee Quarterly, Earth's Daughters and other periodicals. Her poems also have appeared in the anthologies Life on the Line, Women and Death and This Far Together: Haight Ashbury Literary Journal Anthology. She worked as a free-lance writer and art critic for over 15 years, and her art columns were carried by The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson), the Tucson Weekly and Artspace (Albuquerque, N.M.). She also received a fellowship in art criticism from the National Gallery of Art. In 2005, after completing an Associate of Arts' degree in interior design at The Art Center Design College, she embarked on a new career as an interior designer. Portwood holds a Master of Fine Arts' degree in creative writing from the University of Arizona. She lives in Tucson, Arizona with her husband, Mark Taylor.
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