Poems From the Asylum by Martha H. Nasch, edited by Janelle Molony and introduced by Jodi Nasch Decker

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Paperback, 336 pgs.
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Poems From the Asylum by Martha H. Nasch, edited by Janelle Molony, with an introduction from Jodi Nasch Decker, is part poetry collection, part family history and mystery, and part examination of psychiatric practices at the time of Nasch’s confinement at St. Peter State Hospital in St. Peter, Minnesota.

I don’t plan to explore much of the history of her family or how she and her husband got together, had a child, were separated by her confinement, and eventually split up. The history is informative regarding her life, though there are some mysteries regarding her treatment at the hospital and her procedure that seemed to make her more ill after birthing her son. I’d rather focus on the poems, but the whole book is an interesting exploration of this family, its dynamics, psychiatric care at the time, and so much more. About 80 pages are dedicated to the family history, family tree, maps of the neighborhoods, and more. About two-thirds of the book is Martha’s poetry, written while she was in the asylum.

**Of note is that there are asides detailing the meaning of metaphors used by Martha, as well as other techniques, which too me seemed overdone and extraneous, but to others could be helpful.**

From the early poems, it is clear that Martha feels betrayed, whether her poems are about a specific or imagined infidelity by her husband, it is unclear. Martha does not specify with whom or when the affair occurs, but it is clear that she is devastated. “When the dearest one she had on earth was unfaithful to his wife./” (from “Forbidden Lust,” pg. 94) Many of these poems read like short diary entries, seeming to be the way in which Martha tries to make sense of the heartache she feels as she has nothing else to do in the asylum but feel and wallow. She even wishes that he could feel the bitterness she does, but by the time he begs her for forgiveness, it will be too late, she says in “Failure.”

In many ways her poems fit nicely in the modernist movement of poetry, mirroring a stream of consciousness style but with rhyme.

One of my favorite poems in the collection is “A Cottonwood Tree.” Martha remembers her love of nature and the changes of seasons, but soon comes to a realization that she has become like the tree, losing its leaves and entering its fall season. “To have no world, nor loved ones near,/All nature’s beauty marred./To be cast into hell, alive,/And in an asylum, barred.//” (pg. 121)

Not all of these poems are merely dedicated to her role as wife and mother. There are some about other patients, etc. These are equally as interesting. Poems From the Asylum by Martha H. Nasch, edited by Janelle Molony, with an introduction from Jodi Nasch Decker, gives readers a glimpse into world of asylums at the time, and into the mind of a woman isolated from her family.

RATING: Quatrain

Check out this interview with Janelle Molony and Jodi Nasch Decker:

Mailbox Monday #665

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Velvet, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

This is what we received:

Poems from the Asylum by Martha H. Nasch, introduction by Jodi Nasch Decker, edited by Janelle Molony from the editor for review.

Anthology of harrowing and insightful poems written by Martha Hedwig Nasch, patient-inmate #20864 at the St. Peter State Hospital for the Insane.

After noticing something strange from a secret medical procedure in 1927, St. Paul, Minnesota, Martha Nasch’s doctor claimed she just had a “case of nerves.” With a signature from her adulterous husband, Martha was committed against her will to the asylum. She spent nearly seven years in the Minnesota hospital during the Great Depression and tried to escape twice. Martha’s poems from behind bars include shocking eyewitness accounts of patient treatment and a long-suffering adoration for her only child, now being raised alone by her deceiving spouse.

When not a soul believed Martha’s story, she sought an explanation for her mysterious condition that led her to a spiritual answer for the mystifying curse. Would her findings make her a metaphysical guru of the Breatharian lifestyle, or would she become the laughingstock of her Depression-era family?

Editing and arrangement by Martha’s great-granddaughter, Janelle Molony, with an introduction by Jodi Nasch Decker, granddaughter and family historian. More than fifty photographs and illustrations are included with the historical research that accompanies this beautiful collection of poems.

Run by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, which I purchased.

The sequel to the #1 New York Times bestselling graphic novel series March—the continuation of the life story of John Lewis and the struggles seen across the United States after the Selma voting rights campaign.

To John Lewis, the civil rights movement came to an end with the signing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. But that was after more than five years as one of the preeminent figures of the movement, leading sit–in protests and fighting segregation on interstate busways as an original Freedom Rider. It was after becoming chairman of SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and being the youngest speaker at the March on Washington.

It was after helping organize the Mississippi Freedom Summer and the ensuing delegate challenge at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. And after coleading the march from Selma to Montgomery on what became known as “Bloody Sunday.” All too often, the depiction of history ends with a great victory.

But John Lewis knew that victories are just the beginning. In Run: Book One, John Lewis and longtime collaborator Andrew Aydin reteam with Nate Powell—the award–winning illustrator of the March trilogy—and are joined by L. Fury—making an astonishing graphic novel debut—to tell this often overlooked chapter of civil rights history.

What did you receive?