Tag Archives: illness

Women in Horror: Emma Gibbon

WiHM11-GrrrlWhiteWhen did you discover poetry and who/what influenced you?

I started writing poetry as a teenager. I was extremely angsty and trying to put down some of the darkness I felt was a way of releasing it. I read the first poetry that really blew me away around the same time at school–Coleridge and Blake. “Christabel” was a wonder to my teenage brain and “The Sick Rose” was the first poem I ever memorized. Later, Plath and Sexton really spoke to me. I find my influences come from different mediums too–the music videos of Mark Pellington, the works of Angela Carter, Shirley Jackson and Daphne du Maurier, film and TV like Donnie Darko and Twin Peaks, and the photography of Gregory Crewdson. I’ve always said that if I can ever create something that gives me the same feeling as Nirvana’s version of “In the Pines” then I’ll feel like I’ve finally made it.

Consumption

I had always envied Emily’s beauty
her life it seemed
charmed
and I a hobgoblin in her wake,
the ugliest sister,
while she of the flaxen hair,
rosebud lips
and a laugh that
tinkled like spun glass
sailed ahead.

Even when the sickness settled into her bones
like a cursed sea fret
and the hack, hack, hack of her cough filled rooms
still her suitors came.

This creature,
this consumption,
enhanced her beauty still.
Burrowed into her body
and made it shine
like a thing that must die.

Her cheeks, inflamed, bloomed
in their hollows
and those famed lips,
crimson and blood-bitten

but it was her eyes
her eyes
that stopped the menfolk across
the room
feverish green
gasoline on water burning
come-hither and much, much more.

How I wanted what she had
How I wanted to be her
How I wanted

I watched her obsessively
as she lounged on every chaise longue
trying to hide what she produced with her hack, hack, hack.
She was sly but not as sly as
I. I tracked those delicate handkerchiefs she
spat into,
folded,
and tucked under cushions,
pillows,
behind drapes,
trying to hide the shame
of her mortality.

Still the men simpered,
her tragedy an aphrodisiac.

When she was abed,
swimming in laudanum dreams,

I would retrace her faltering steps,
collect the small silken packets
she would leave like presents.

When alone I would open them,
inspect the slime,
the bloody sputum.
Steeling myself,
I would lick the silk,
consume her sickness,

steal her beauty for myself.

## published in Eye to the Telescope #33

Why do you write poetry?

It’s the same as all the writing I do, it really is a compulsion. I am a happier person when I do. I don’t necessarily find writing easy but not writing makes me feel uneasy in my skin.

What do you think is the most difficult aspect in writing poetry?

There are certain poems that come out almost fully formed and it feels like magic. I can reverse engineer them and see what my subconscious was working on and where they came from, but in the moment of writing, I experience a flow that is the best feeling of writing. The difficulty comes when it is the opposite of that when there’s something I want to write about but it really takes work and a lot of drafts to get it right. The irony is is that I don’t think the reader can tell the difference between the finished poems.

Do you explore particular themes? What are they and why?

I do. I have themes that come up over and over again. Very often, I am only aware of it retrospectively. I’ve been writing for over twenty years now, and I can track what my concerns and worries and interests are through my work. I also have certain “obsessions” that I come back to. My librarian-brain means I go down research rabbit holes and these resurface later in my writing. Some of the themes and motifs you’ll find in my poetry (and other writings) are illness (especially tuberculosis), sympathetic portrayals of monsters, underdogs and outcasts, robots and AI, death and funeral rituals, the supernatural, gothic sensibilities, dystopias, punk and glam rock and much more!

What is it about dark (speculative) poetry that you think attracts people to read it?

I genuinely think that there are many people (myself included) that are just hardwired to be attracted to darker themes. I’m deeply suspicious of people who are relentlessly sunshine-y and positive. I believe that art is full of dark and light and all the gray areas in between and to experience all of it is to live a fuller life.

What projects (publications) are you working on or have coming up?

I have “Persephone,” a poem out with Kaleidotrope this year and I also have a chapbook, Monster, Miasma & Myth, out on submission that I hope someone will pick up. Very excitingly, I have two poems nominated for the Rhysling: “Fune-RL” and “Consumption.” In not-poetry news, I have a story “Purgatory” due out in the folk horror anthology, Would But Time Await, and my debut fiction collection, Dark Blood Comes from the Feet, is due out in May. I’m also going to be a Readercon program participant this year, and I will be editing Eye to the Telescope 36, House and Home which will release in April.

Emma J. Gibbon is originally from Yorkshire in the U.K. and now lives in Midcoast Maine. GibbionShe is a Rhysling-nominated speculative poet, horror writer and librarian. Her poetry has been published in Strange Horizons, Liminality, Pedestal Magazine and Eye to the Telescope. Her stories have appeared in the New England Horror Writers anthologies, Wicked Haunted and Wicked Weird, The Muse & The Flame and Toasted Cake podcast. Her debut fiction collection, Dark Blood Comes from the Feet, is out in May from Trepidatio Publishing. Emma lives with her husband, Steve, and three exceptional animals: Odin, Mothra and M. Bison (also known as Grim). She is a member of the New England Horror Writers, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association, the Angela Carter Society and the Tuesday Mayhem Society. Her website is emmajgibbon.com and you can find her on twitter @EmmaJGibbon.

 

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BC Liberals Slash Health Care

Just a month or so after our pitiful election where barely half of eligible people voted, Gordon Campbell’s true colors shine again. And his determined plan is to undermine our health care, make people suffer with their pains and illnesses and bring in privatized medicine. Ralph Klein pulled this same move in Alberta. At one time he had closed all lab/x-ray clinics in the city of Calgary except for two. My mother went one day for a blood test that she’s required to have monthly. She waited eight hours and then had to go back the next day. For a two minute blood test.

This way Ralph Klein could then say that the system was overloaded and the only way to deal with it was to open private clinics…because he had closed the clinics in the first place. As a military commander it would have been a good move. As a political leader he wielded as much power and thought he’d slide everything through. I don’t know all of what happened but I’m sure he did get in some privatization even if the private clinics have been under scrutiny. There are private clinics now in Alberta.

It was announced yesterday that the BC Coastal Health Authority (a fancy name for Ministry of Health) is going to reduce their administrative costs, which rippled through as being, elective surgeries will be cancelled, especially during the Olympics, in case there is an emergency. It’s obvious that the ministry should be renamed to the Ministry of Pain and Minister Kevin Falcon is babbling double speak to cover the fact that the government is hurting people.

First, to cancel elective surgeries during the Olympics makes no sense. There are many hospitals and to cancel before there is any medical emergency is just plain idiotic. But wait, we have a government health care system so it’s not like revenue is coming in. It’s just a way to save money at the expense of well-being and lives. Oh, and remember that big white elephant, the Olympics,which haven’t even happened yet? Yes, already losing money, already over budget, as if I didn’t know that back when they were lying to us about all the costs.  So guess how we’ll get some of the money to cover those costs. Cut out some health care.

Some might think I’m being overly dramatic when it comes to saying people’s lives are at risk. After all, it’s elective surgery. Well, let’s look at what elective means. It means it’s not life threatening, as in a heart attack, or cancer, or a burst appendix. Not immediately life threatening. But elective surgeries could cover cosmetic surgery for someone badly burned and scarred in a house fire, every knee, hip or shoulder surgery, and any other joint problem like carpal tunnel or a bust ankle.

What happens if you put off surgery on a hip or knee or shoulder? We already have super long waiting times (it could be a year to see a specialist and a year or more for surgery). The part of the body affected will change and pain will become chronic. Scar tissue can build up and bone can deteriorate further. On top of that, the person who is suffering might not be able to walk or move, could be in constant pain, unable to eat or sleep or work. Pain is an insidious thing and constant, unrelenting pain can lead people to suicide. For others, it will wear them down and cause other chronic problems.

In the long run, and long run it is, a person will end up with more health problems and require more health care the longer they must wait for a corrective surgery. I’ve seen some of this first hand with friends requiring surgeries. It’s extremely wearing on loved ones as well. So, by cutting costs now, it hurts people and the system later. But then that’s the shortsightedness of government, isn’t it? We fix today but don’t look into the future.

The worst (and as far as I’m concerned, criminal) part of this is that people will suffer and yes some will die earlier because the government plays politics with health. Should they just cut administrative costs, it could work. Maybe. But what happens if there isn’t enough staff to run a clinic or a hospital or to file X-rays and blood work properly? We’ll end up with cases like those in the East, where people were misdiagnosed or results weren’t followed up.

And then of course, the last statement yesterday was that perhaps they would have to look at more privatized medicare. Hello Gordon Campbell in Ralph Klein’s clothing. Cut back health services and then say, “Oh look, we don’t have enough. Of course we need private health.” Nice strategy but I see through it. Unfortunately the only thing I can do to stop this and make people aware is write this. (Not that anyone seems to care enough to vote, until it’s them waiting for surgery.) Oh, and I can stay healthy to try and avoid the ongoing slings and arrows of the Liberal government and the Ministry of Pain.

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Quacks, Doctors and Outmoded Thinking

I had a short discussion today with a naturopathic doctor who pointed out that doctors are scientists and as scientists they should always be exploring, knowing that our knowledge base can change. We were talking about books from the 70s and how the information on nutrition had changed a great deal. However there are doctors who make their practice religion as this person said.

And he’s correct. Those that learned one thing and have never changed it, challenged it or sought to find new information on it have indeed moved the medical sciences into the realm of their unchanging belief and tradition.

I had a doctor like this. He was our family doctor and as a child I suffered from constant tonsillitis. I’d get about four infections a year, and had colds all the time. When I was about eight I was scheduled to have my tonsils out but my parents, whose relationship was always bad, had a huge fight and the surgery was never rescheduled.

I continued through teenagerhood, suffering the same problem. By the time I was nineteen and in art college I had such a bad bout of tonsillitis that I couldn’t talk, my tongue was swollen and I had cankers all over the inside of my mouth, which negated eating too. I went to the college doctor and said I had tonsillitis. They didn’t believe me (because I wasn’t a medical professional) but scheduled me in. Of course the doctor took one look and said why didn’t you come sooner? Well, I was a student of course, working on projects with no time and not getting the right amount of sleep.

Through those early childhood years of tonsils being tortured, they actually grew holes, complicating things and making those colds linger. It got so bad that I could feel them when I swallowed because food would get stuck in the holes. I know, gross. Bad breath and infections. When I opened my mouth and looked in the mirror I could see a few of these holes and the white bits in them.

So I went to my doctor, my childhood doctor who knew my history, and told him the problem. He didn’t even look in my throat but said it was nerves. I’ve never been a particularly high-strung or nervous person and I said outright, It’s not nerves. Then he told me that all sorts of people got that. I was younger and politer but I left and went to another doctor, who took a look and couldn’t see anything but sent me to a throat specialist. He took a two-second look and said, when do you want to be scheduled for surgery?

That first doctor had not only lost his perspective but presumed he knew everything without looking at his patients. He did the same thing when I said I had a bladder infection and didn’t take a urine sample but told me I didn’t wash myself properly. WTF? That was the complete last straw. He should have been dropped by the profession and my mother surmised that he had grown to tired to practice properly. In some ways it’s too bad it’s so difficult to sue doctors in Canada.

But most of all this guy was working on the tenets of his medical religion, going on the faith of what he knew and no longer even investigating the physical condition of his patients. Or as my current doctor put it, someone has to graduate at the bottom of the class and those people practice medicine too. Go figure.

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