Cutting Up Depression

or how poetry came along to rearrange the pieces of the future

Last week Devin pointed me in the direction of this wiki article on Cut-up Technique. It came at a time when I had started to excavate my depression.

Part of the depression (what originally alerted me to the fact something was terribly wrong, and ongoing wrong, rather than just oscillating in and out of wrong) was my rapidly deteriorating memory. Combine that with an inability to focus and a disordering of the way my brain functioned it’s been a long slide into not being able to write. Add to that mix an absolute gutting of my confidence and it’s become a pretty lethal pill.

But I want to write.

Writing has always been my antidepressant.

To not be able to write compounds the problem.

The Techtonics of Depression

This time I see my depression like layers of earth, each one with its own characteristics and stories compacted between what came before and after. I can see where it started. I can see how over time I haven’t got better, I’ve just normalised how I felt. And with each knock back and each knock down I’ve sunk lower, normalised it and then sunk lower again.

Inside me are strata of misery and disappointment and hopelessness and bleakness and a pervading sense of being utterly lost and alone: this layer here, where the boy first refused to go to school in 2012; this one here where the school shunted us into Distance Education and called it help; here where I turned up every day to help with Distance Education, hating every minute of it; this one here where I suffered through glandular fever several months out from my 40th birthday; the one here, where the boy dropped out of school a second time after 10 weeks of being caught at school everyday and the privilege of driving hours a day to get there and thousands of dollars down the toilet; the one here, where it hit I was going to be imprisoned in my house forever with no hope of achieving anything I ever wanted to do, to watch dreams die; this one here were I came to see how I was already disappearing, becoming invisible to the suburban landscape; this one here where no matter how much others cared for me, I had stopped caring for myself.

On Cutting Into the Future

Conceptualising the last two years of depression, as one might see a core sample of earth, and with almost two weeks of gingko and positive thinking under my belt, I went in search of possible texts that I could put together to create a cut-up poem. It wasn’t exactly writing, but it was interacting with words in a creative space.photo 1I found a personal account of depression, “An Open Letter to Depression” at 20-nothings and the Oxford University of Natural History’s article, ‘How Do Fossils Form‘. I copied and pasted them into individual Word documents, tweaked the font and line spacing so the sentences ran into each other when they were folded in half. This made what I was about to create more ‘fold-up’ than ‘cut-up’.photo 2I then cut each article in half and taped them together. Immediately phrases bleed out of the jumble. Others slowly unearthed in the process of blanking out words and sentences, like a geological dig, brushing dirt from fossils. At the end of blotting out, I came across the title.

photo 3With the poem transposed from the page to the screen and assembled into lines, I moved a few up or down, cut out more words, made consistent (where possible) the tense and other mechanics for readability. And “An Open Letter on How Fossils Form When Conditions Beneficially Interact” was born.

William S. Burroughs, one of the main proponents of the cut-up technique suggested cut-ups may be effective as a form of divination saying, “When you cut into the present the future leaks out.” Sitting here on the cusp of being well again, I like that and how it adds another frame, another filter to the poem.

The future is one I fashion for myself, above and beyond of the bedrock of depression I’ve been trapped in.


An Open Letter On How Fossils Form When Conditions Beneficially Interact
With thanks to Meghan and Oxford University of Natural History

Just because depression is ‘gone’
means nothing.
Sometimes sleeping feels like slipping.
Happiness and well-being rot away.
The animal dies and its body sinks.
Skeletons fall from the ocean above.

Buried, explains how life may die.

The skeleton thickens as sediment,
added to depressions of life.
A story dissolves,
pressure,
and a mould preserving the shape
of the original brilliant visions
crystallise inside happy pills

Illness,
none of its internal features have
a reason to stay alive.
Reason;
medicine and therapy,
worn away
by wind and rain
and minds.

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7 thoughts on “Cutting Up Depression

  1. Absolutely lovely writing. Extremely brave. Extremely useful and practical. I think I have been to some of the places you have been, and I admire the way you’ve returned.

    Like

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  3. Firstly, I really enjoyed the imagery of your poem. I also loved your process, how you came to create it. You have the kind of creative mind I’d love to see the inside of. In a noncreepy way…

    Like

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