Writers on the Edge: 22 Writers Speak About Addiction and Dependency edited by Diana M. Raab and James Brown

Source: Modern History Press
Paperback, 185 pages
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Writers on the Edge: 22 Writers Speak About Addiction and Dependency edited by Diana M. Raab and James Brown is a collection of essays, memories, poems, and stories about addiction and dependency, but more than that they are harrowing experiences of surviving with addiction and dependency and the continuous struggle that dogs these writers throughout their lives.  Most, if not all, of these essays are frank and honest about the vacillation between lying about an addiction and being honest about it and confronting it.  The poems are similar in that way.  From alcoholism to suicide and depression as well as overeating addictions, these writers share the struggle with themselves, each other, their readers, and sometimes even their families.  “These writers were more often than not, perps–their own or somebody else’s.  It’s roughly akin to reading a recollection of Nagasaki survivors by people who dropped the bomb on themselves,” says Jerry Stahl in the Foreword.

There are perfect examples in these writers’ lives of what addiction can lead to, and there are examples of friends who successfully killed themselves that haunt these writers and scare them to keep away from their addictions.  But even the scariest moments in these addicts lives may not be enough to stave off addictions for long, while there are times when addiction is held at arms length for a longer period of time, there are always moments of weakness around the corner.  What these writers strive to illustrate through these essays is that life and addiction go hand in hand, and some addictions may be more destructive than others, but it is when they become obsessions that people can lose control of themselves and lose all that they have and love.

From John Amen's "23":

... Jul called an ambulance,
and I came to in intensive care, sunlight flooding
through barred windows, tubes flowing like power lines.
I'd been here before, each survival bolstering some
myth of invincibility, but this time I knew I was treading

Clarity is the moment when each addict learns that they are addicts and that they must do something differently or die. “The language of poetry is the means by which one human consciousness speaks most intimately, directly, and precisely to others. Yet it is also an empty mirror, if I tell the truth of what I see,” says Chase Twichell in “Toys in the Attic.” More than a look at the addiction that has shaped these writers, this volume offers lessons and examples of struggle and includes an appendix of organizations and support groups to help those who need it.  Writers on the Edge: 22 Writers Speak About Addiction and Dependency edited by Diana M. Raab and James Brown is heartbreaking and inspiring, with selections that echo off one another to shout the louder truth of surviving addiction — it is a never ending process that must be undertaken every day, every hour, and at every moment.


  1. Kudos to them for sharing their experiences. I like how there’s a mixture of poems, essays, and stories. Sounds like one to read a little out of every now and then.

    • I really enjoyed it, though the one by Anne Sexton’s daughter I had read in her memoir previously, so some are reprints.