If I played my life on the viola
I'd scratch and pull
My smooth hair bow
Into tuneless, hopeless...
- Elizabeth McDonell, "If I Played My Life"
I first approached this book with caution, assuming it would be sad,
delicate material. I approached it knowing the subject matter would not
be light. Although I expected that it would be enlightening, it deals with
an illness that so many people misunderstand. I approached it this way because
I too do not understand the innermost depths of this disease-a mental disorder
commonly known as schizophrenia.
It tells me things no one would admit.
It tells me things I never wanted to know.
- Simon Adamson, "My Brain"
If I Played My Life is a collection of poetry from writers who have what
we so avidly name a disease. The book is the result of a project started
by Alberta poet Sandra May in the hope of giving schizophrenia a place in
literature and art where it is still very much underrepresented. Many of
the works seem to narrate themselves-the joy, the humiliation, and the hope
that one might feel with schizophrenia.
To be crippled
In strange ways
Like having no control over your mouth.
- Mark Sunderland, "Torture Machines"
Reccurring themes include pain, discouragement, paranoia, medication,
and the experience of slipping into fantasies that many of the writers face.
As a whole, it addresses fate and destiny. As a testament it questions society,
addressing the prevalent attitude toward schizophrenia. Many of the poems
describe personal experiences, which are often spiritual. The poetry is
often done as free verse, which is so moving that one looks beyond the poem's
To make words dance,
Turning the ordinary
into the extraordinary.
- Teresa Miller, "Where Do I Go From Here?"
Above all, If I Played My Life is a collection of art. It is the result
of work shared between poets, united for a cause and often transforming
their pain into a powerful message of hope. To put it simply, it is beautifully
written. Every page leaves the reader with a new outlook; a new way of thinking
about this disease. While many would consider these writers victims suffering
from schizophrenia, If I Played My Life proves that they are triumphant
artists who have the courage to share their pain and make it part of their