Creativity in Psychiatry Camp: Contrpuntal

I can hear the whispers
                                                  When I hold the clothespins of heaven

Clothespins are very simplistic in reality, but in this short line, Foster
is describing the clothespins of heaven, the angels in heaven. - Natalie Price, age 14

when I stare at clouds
                                                  I believe they can sing

Because of the format of this poem, the “they” here could refer to a couple of things. Depending on how one reads the poem, “they” could be the clothespins, “they” could be the clouds, “they” could be the whispers, or “they” could maybe be something or someone else entirely. While it’s possible Foster had a specific “they” in mind, I think the beautiful thing about poetry, and especially the beautiful thing about poetry that plays around with form such as this one, is that the reader is given the power to determine the answer for his or herself and maybe, just maybe, “they” will mean something different every time the poem is read. - Heather Bulliss, age 23

and repeat the same word
                                                  my name in secret code
over and over
                                                  and only God can understand
the stunted joke of eternity
                                                  the stuttering lie
*This poem was previously published in the poetry chapbook Ten Songs from Bulgaria (Cervena Barva Press, 2008)

A wonderfully complex piece, Nemec Foster's poem begins with "whispers" and ends with a "stuttering lie." The speaker, a psychiatry patient, begins her confession by reaching out for hope, holding on for understanding. However, in a few quick liness he realizes the futility of relational counseling. "Only God can understand," she declares, and shuts the door on mental rehabilitation. - Lauren Carlson, age 24
This poem can be read as one complete work or two separate pieces as expressed by the word "contrapuntal" in the title (one on the left and one on the right). This is a very interesting style of writing. I haven’t read a lot of poetry written in this style. This piece is a double achievement in its searing simplicity and complex form. - Daisy Hall, age 15
I like the way this poem could be read as two separate thoughts, or one long merged thought. It’s interesting to think of clothespins singing to God and that God sees the name being sung in secret code as a lie or stunted joke of eternity. It’s a very interesting journey into a mind that is restless; hearing whispers, singing, jokes; it appears that the author is not at peace with her inner self and is struggling to find that balance she needs to move forward. - Rachel McGuinness, age 23
The power of this poem lies in its shape. Something here is broken, disjointed, and it is left to the reader to determine what. Is it our understanding of God? Has “the stuttering lie,” like the stuttering lines, misdirected us? Are the “clothespins of Heaven” and the singing clouds elements of a world to which
we are not apart? Have they become undone or fallen into discord? Has the mind broken? After all, we are in a psychiatry camp, and thus meaning, sense, and grammar could be uncertain? Perhaps the title’s word “contrpuntal” provides a clue? Broadly speaking, in music theory, counterpoint is when two melodies engage with and work off of each other. Though I’m not certain what is working off of what in this poem, there does seem to be the sense that the divine and the human, the imagined and the tangible, the true and the false, are in some sort of conflict or relationship here; both positively and negatively. Like the troubadour in the first poem, we must enter the fog to find answers, for this poem does not provide any. This verse viscerally elicits questioning from its readers, putting us into the frame of mind necessary to enact the first poem’s seeking. - Nathaniel Schmidt, age 27
Here we have a poem where two columns maintain semantic and syntactical sense when read both independently and in conjunction. My initial reaction is that the poem is whimsical, contemplative, and almost a bit pastoral. Certainly, it is these things in part (perhaps, with the exception with the slightly sinister closing line). There are, however, suggestions of insanity throughout the poem. The words "Psychiatry" in the title is key to this reading. With mental health in mind, the hearing of whispers, repetition of words, and irrational beliefs ("I believe they can sing") take on a different poignancy. Could this be a prescribed exercise of the psychiatric patient? Certainly, it could be, and that tension makes this poem pop. Note, however, that the evidence used in this reading is found largely in the left column. The metaphorical imagery and religious language of the right column diffuse the psychological dysfunction of the left column, striking a balance and lending the entire poem a non-literal tone. - Justin Majetich, age 22
I really like that the poem reflects the title, or vice-versa. Each line can flow into the next as a counterpoint song, or each paragraph-left or right- can stand alone as its own thought. The two sides of the poem balance and reflect each other and contradict each other simultaneously. - Kara Madden, age 26
Through the 3rd Eye was supported in its inception by the Grand Rapids Humanities Council and is currently made possible by continued volunteer effort and private support. Copyright 2013.