Living in Storms: Contemporary Poetry and the Moods of Manic Depression

Schramm, T., ed.

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Anthology (Poems)

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Mar-15-2008
  • Last revised: Mar-14-2008


In his Introduction, editor Thom Schramm puts the themes of this anthology into perspective. He notes that the moods associated with bipolar disorder are familiar to everyone. Moreover, the notion that artistic creativity is associated with psychological instability is widespread; in fact, it is almost a stereotype, ranging in time from Plato's depiction of poets as suffering from "divine madness" to contemporary examples, like Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Robert Lowell. However, it should be evident that, since we all experience periods of sadness and elation, it is no wonder that poets of all stripes, no matter how "stable" they might be, may evince these moods in their work.

Living in Storms presents an array of contemporary poems grouped to reflect mania and depression from different perspectives. The book has eight sections. In the first three, the poet himself or herself expresses what it is like to be susceptible to mania or depression ("How It Is"), the experience of being there ("In the Mood"), and the experience in retrospect ("Remembering the Episodes"). The next two sections contain poems that approach these moods from more of a distance, either looking at the sufferer from another's perspective, ("Characters") or at the influence of manic-depressive sufferers on those around them ("Family and Friends"). The following section is devoted to poems about artists who suffered from manic-depression ("Artists"). The last two sections contain poems that depict shifts from one mood to the other, either on a daily or general basis ("Daily Shifts") or seasonally ("With the Seasons").


Living in Storms is an equal opportunity anthology. It contains poems by relatively obscure poets, as well as poems by many of the most acclaimed contemporary poets. The editor has done a fine job selecting for expressiveness with regard to the moods and their consequences, but in the context of overall poetic quality. Among the poems and collections otherwise annotated in this database are Jane Kenyon's "Having it Out with Melancholy," Rika Lesser's All We Need of Hell, and Belle Waring's Dark Blonde.

The editor's method of grouping poems allows the reader to explore mania and depression at different distances; e.g. from the inside (David Halpern's "Rock Star Dream" or David Ignatow's "I'm Sure") versus from the outside looking in (Reginald Gibbons's "Question" or Donna Truselli's "Snow"). Likewise, the reader may investigate the natural history of bipolar disorder, as in Harvey Shapiro's "Days and Nights," or its social history, as in Richard Krawiec's "God's Face." This is a delight for anyone who loves poems that speak honestly about feelings. It is also a fine resource for teachers, especially of health professionals, who employ literature as an avenue to understanding the human condition.

Primary Source

Living in Storms: Contemporary Poetry and the Moods of Manic-Depression


Eastern Washington University Press

Place Published





Thom Schramm

Page Count