Poetry of the Insane

While he was attending physician at the Illinois State Hospital for the Insane, Dr. Charles Mayos collected poems that were written by his patients. Of course, all poets are a bit insane, but the ones that interested him were actually locked up and labeled psychotic. Eventually, in 1933, he published a collection of this verse in a book he titled Poetry of the Insane. [St. Petersburg Times]

The publisher mustn't have thought there was a large market for such a book, because only 300 copies of it were printed , which now makes it quite rare — and valuable. Copies fetch up to $200.

I've never got my hands on a copy of the book. (Not willing to pay that much for it.) Below is the only poem from it I can find online. I've read much worse poetry from people who are supposedly sane.

by Anonymous
The hue of sorrow everywhere
The jagged rocks seem marble tombs,
Yet through the barren waste way over there,
A lily blooms.

As up the rugged heights revealed,
I creep, and deem the world as wrong;
A singer trills above the love unsealed,
His mating song.

I pierce the gloom with purer eyes,
For here I know that Heaven is —
I yield my empty self and realize
These are all His.
     Posted By: Alex - Fri Feb 15, 2013
     Category: Books | 1930s | Mental Health and Insanity

Feb 19th is temporary Insanity Day. Who knew?
Posted by BMN on 02/15/13 at 10:04 AM
Although poetry usually does very little for me, this one was short and to the point - I believe that the author recognizes their struggle to emerge from their affliction.

To say that oneself is a little nuts among friends as a joke is one thing. To realize that one is actually unbalanced and can do little to remedy the situation is quite something else.
Posted by KDP on 02/15/13 at 10:48 AM
So Doctor Mayos collected poems from his patients, and later published a book with poems by "anonymous" authors? He's a thief. He should have been locked up.
Posted by Dave Hanford on 02/15/13 at 02:25 PM
I might note that there are a lot of levels of actually crazy. Personally I have a list of proper diagnoses as long as my arm, (and I have been known to write poetry). A lot of people have no idea who they know who would be considered literally insane (I'm on disability due to mine). I personally don't view my insanity as much as an affliction as merely, seeing things in an entirely different light than most people. I acknowledge that all we know about reality is based on our senses, and my senses don't agree with most people's, but it isn't as much of a liability in that sense. What's more of a liability is how most people react to the idea of someone with a major mental illness (or several). I find it distressing how so many people think that 'crazy' means dangerous, when, more often, most of the mentally ill are victims rather than aggressors.
Posted by Alassirana on 02/15/13 at 07:52 PM
I agree with you Alassiriana, there are levels of crazy and most people reach one or more of those levels from time to time throughout their lives. Poetry is an artistic outlet for those different perceptions you mentioned.
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 02/15/13 at 10:04 PM
Apparently Amazon has a seller of this book in hardcover and used for $50 + 3.99 for shipping and handling:

Posted by phritzg on 02/16/13 at 11:07 AM
i don't know about you... but in weirdness resides actual maturity....
love you Anonymous.......
Posted by anon on 02/21/13 at 10:15 AM
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