Spinifex Press

June 1999

$19.95 AU

100p pb

ISBN: 978-1875559886

Bird and other writings on epilepsy

Susan Hawthorne

from the book...

Birds don't fly with leads, I said.

Safety belts are to learn with, not to live with - 

I'm safer on the trapeze than crossing the road.

And I do that every day, often by myself.

 

So thirteen-year-old Avis argues when confronted by the limitations imposed on her at school. She has epilepsy and some of the teachers want to stop her from participating in the sport she loves most.

 

From societal limitations to the inner experience of seizures, Susan Hawthorne's poetry takes the reader on a journey rarely recorded. Physical injury, memory loss, explorations of consciousness and language are concerns of the poet.

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Through this collection of poetry Susan Hawthorne takes her readers on a journey of discovery into the world of an epilepsy sufferer, something which many of us know little about. Each poem highlights a different aspect of living with epilepsy, from having to live with the constant risk of a seizure, to how it feels to experience a seizure and its debilitating aftermath. Life is affected in a multitude of ways because even simple everyday actions can be potentially lethal – bathwater higher than 30 centimetres can result in drowning should a seizure occur at this time.

The strength of this collection is that Susan Hawthorne is able to convey, as far as it is possible to do so, how it feels to live with epilepsy. She does this by using simple, powerful images which anyone can relate to. One of the many I particularly like is from the poem ‘Devils’: ‘Little devils with snarling carnivorous teeth pursue me…and I fall, damn it I fall.’

Tackling topics like this in literature is important in increasing our understanding and acceptance of one another. Older students and adult readers would find this collection enlightening and heartfelt.

Irene, Canberra, Australia

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