#5278 – Bonnie MacLeod & Mary-Jean Doyle

Bonnie MacLeod (photo, right) and Mary-Jean Doyle are both active in the theatre arts community in Sydney, Nova Scotia. They are actors, directors, playwrights, and Mary-Jean is also a stage manager.

This conversation is about mental health and mental illness, their personal experiences as told in poetry, along with commentary.

Nikhil Tikekar wrote, “Was able to listen live from 10,000 miles away. Thanks for helping keep feet firmly on the ground – the two ladies and their living poem hardly leave any room to escape in fantasy-land.”


00:00 – 04:12 Introduction to Bonnie MacLeod and Mary-Jean Doyle.

04:12 – 10:12 Bonnie reads a poem inspired by the Riverside Asylum in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Commentary on the poem and parallels between mental patient care then and now.

10:12 – 14:03 Mary-Jean reads a poem: I Myself Am The Queen. Commentary on the inside of mental institutions and the inside of residents. The value of this poetry for people struggling with a diagnosis of mental illness.

14:03 – 17:37 Bonnie reads a poem about her out-patient experience. Commentary. Challenging people’s expectation when they think of mental illness. What Bonnie finds most rewarding about reading her poetry.

17:37 – 23:17 Mary-Jean talks about self-injury and reads her poem Relapse 2013. Commentary on self-injury.

23:17 – 26:11 What are mental illness and mental health?

26:11 – 29:21 Mary-Jean reads “I was born beneath a cursed star.”

29:21 -37:22 Bonnie reads a poem that speaks of being in relationship. Commentary on the experience of a wall that goes up between people that breaks communication in some intangible way and thus the people around someone with mental illness also suffer, a suffering not commonly recognized. Mental illness is not a “fashionable” disease. Mary-Jean responds to Bonnie’s poem by noting her own experiences. Boundaries blur.

37:22 – 41:03 The boundary between mental health and mental illness.

41:03 – 45:37 Diunital perspective of mental health discussed. “You can have both health and illness at the same time.”

45:37 – 51:33 Bonnie reads her poem, Provisional. We talk about the creative process.

51:33 – Shakespeare’s line, “The truest poetry is the most feigning…” “There’s only so much truth in truth,” Bonnie says. Conclusion.

Mary-Jean Doyle’s website, which includes her poetry, is http://thisinfection.blogspot.ca/. Bonnie doesn’t have a website but we will publicize her upcoming book of poetry when it is published.

Poems read by Mary-Jean Doyle (Bonnie’s poems will be added later):

I Myself Am The Queen
I am one of the haunted here.
I walk down the hall with my
dead face on
and grasp at the sides of the walls.
It gives me something to hold on to.
This flatness eats away at me
until I am weak
in its wake.
Oh how the silence grows.
It really goes to show just how
desperate you would have to
be just to get here.
It is too quiet, and we all wear the same
dead look in our eyes.
And we don’t acknowledge each other
as we walk by.
But I myself am the queen.
I am the one whom the elements call
with a shriek. See how I
twist the bare wires to form
a perfect heart.
It beats when it’s placed in your hand.
They do not understand that
I am the one who appears by
your bed and in the mirror.
I am kept on the shelf
but I am here for something else,
and I grow as dead as the ones
I am near.
Royalty in a locked ward,
there is something in my eye.
Oh I am alive but I am
not pieced together quite right.
Something has to be done
or I’ll never get out of this place.
Relapse 2013
Things got bad inside my head.
I relapsed, so who gives a fuck?
I’m still alive. I am not dead
because I chose to make a cut
but just one cut is not enough.
I’ve gone too far, I’ve crossed the line.
My arms – the skin is coarse and rough.
I fake a smile and swear I’m fine.
This need in me, it must be fed.
I did not tell the ones I trust.
I chose to cut my arms instead,
I don’t know why they make a fuss
when I need stitches just to shut
the depth of harm. It’s not a crime
to take the pain, it’s just self-love.
I fake a smile and swear I’m fine.
To speak of it fills me with dread.
It shows my caliber of luck
when I am pieced back up with thread
because my sharps were full of rust.
It fills me with a sort of lust
every single fucking time
I cut or bleed, when I throw up
I fake a smile and swear I’m fine.
I didn’t lie. I only said
I would not give up what was mine.
I’m only calm when I have bled.
I fake a smile and swear I’m fine.
i was born beneath a curséd star
underneath this wretched sky
i spread my wings and hope to fly
drip the feathers black with tar
i was born beneath a curséd star
there`s a witch who lives inside my head
she wishes she was me instead
she doesn`t know what i wish for
is to be wicked just like her
some people say it`s now or never
i think that i will live forever
a cicatrice is just a scar
i look for love in strangers cars
i tend to block out anything
that doesn`t directly affect me
it`s possible to get away
if you have nothing left to say
i am made of scars and skin
and i only fall for americans
i want to find out who they are
and what it`s like to live so far
when i“m on acid, all the trees
look like they`re looking back at me
i`m a coquette i really try
in hopes that i can catch your eye
there`s a tightening within my chest
when i think of all that i have left
a cicatrice is just a scar
i was born beneath a curséd star

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