In her first collection, Lynne Jensen Lampe deals intimately and specifically with the impact of a mother’s mental illness on her daughter. The poems in Talk Smack to a Hurricane explore their relationship, a bond bruised by absence and shaped by psychiatry. One sequence, eight erasures sourced from a letter the author’s mother wrote the day after giving birth, tells of a new mother happy with life until an inexplicable mental shift sends her from maternity ward to psych ward—for a year, 2400 miles away from her infant and husband. It was 1959. Today these difficulties might be considered a temporary postpartum mental health issue. Instead, the mother received lifelong diagnoses of and treatments for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Using vivid imagery, startling sonics, and odd juxtapositions, Lampe explores a tender and volatile mother-daughter relationship that fed love as well as insecurities. Which mother-version should the daughter believe? What happens to anger when no one’s to blame? Does psychiatry allow a woman her power and personhood? More than personal history, Talk Smack to a Hurricane includes details of 1883 asylum records, lobotomies, even 1960s fashion icons. In examining family heritage and the quest for identity, the collection also fights both shame and stigma.
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