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The Mad Poet's Tea Party

The Mad Poet's Tea Party

by Sandy Jeffs


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but I am madness and madness is me it holds you captive like a hapless bunny caught in the headlights. In this moving collection of poems, award-winning writer Sandy Jeffs shares her journey through madness over four decades, drawing inspiration from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and the motley gathering of characters at the Mad Hatter’s tea party. Both delightful and insightful, playful and serious, witty and whimsical, The Mad Poet’s Tea Party provides a devastating commentary on how our society treats those with mental illness from the perspective of someone who has experienced all its interventions. It captures in poetic form the enigmas and contradiction in madness.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781742199498
Publisher: Spinifex Press
Publication date: 01/01/2016
Edition description: None
Pages: 67
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Sandy Jeffs is a Melbourne poet who has published seven volumes of poetry and a memoir. Her first book Poems from the Madhouse was awarded second place in the FAW Anne Elder poetry prize 1994. Her memoir Flying with Paper Wings: Reflections on Living with Madness was shortlisted for the 2010 Age Book of the Year, named SANE Book of the Year 2010 and was commended in the 2010 Human Rights Awards. She has lived with schizophrenia and all its moods since 1976. Sandy has been a public loony for many years presenting as a human face for this often misunderstood condition. She lives with her friends and animals in a place where it’s Christmas every day.

Read an Excerpt

The Mad Poet's Tea Party

By Sandy Jeffs

Spinifex Press Pty Ltd

Copyright © 2015 Sandy Jeffs
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-74219-950-4


    The Madwoman in this Poem

    (After Bronwen Wallace)

    For Gudrun

    Yet how stupendous a psychosis
    in which God is heard

    Gudrun Hinze

    The madwoman in this poem
    lives on the twenty-second floor
    of a block of flats
    her husband and children gone
    each day she waits for a letter
    that never comes
    her wrists carry a flurry of scars
    her arms are dotted with cigarette burns
    every day she contemplates jumping.

    The madwoman in this poem
    walks the streets
    reciting Shakespeare and Milton
    she shelters in bus stops and doorways
    scrounges through rubbish bins
    drinks from discarded beer bottles
    begs for money to buy cigarettes
    and a moment's respite.

    The madwoman in this poem
    slumps into a ramshackle chair
    hiding herself
    her large torpid body founders
    her heavy breasts gush
    drug-induced lactation
    her body grows
    with each anti-crazy pill
    she reluctantly swallows.

    The madwoman in this poem
    transfixes in front of the TV
    absorbing its many messages
    Ally McBeal is her daughter
    Eddie McGuire can read her mind
    Ridge and Brooke are talking to her
    are going to come in a helicopter
    take her to Venice to meet Brad Pitt.

    The madwoman in this poem
    lives in a holy grotto
    awaiting the Pilgrims
    she carries the burden of Eve
    smells God in the toilet
    sees the Virgin above the lintel
    has given birth to the New Messiah
    carries the secret of the Holy Grail in her heart
    was raped by the Devil
    sees maggots wriggling in her stigmata.

    The madwoman in this poem
    is sure Beethoven stole the
    nine symphonies from her
    cannot walk on the cracks of the pavement
    can feel spiders eating her brain
    fears her head is about to explode
    is going to the firing squad next morning
    is a character in a Bruegel painting
    is an oracle of the dead.

    The madwoman in this poem
    is everywoman
    is any woman
    is a mother, daughter
    sister, lover, friend —
    the madwoman in this poem —
    is me.

    Sensing Madness

    Fateful days beckon
    she loses herself to
    the loosening of her senses
    taste is tinged with poison
    hideous sounds sear her ears
    eyes are filled with the Madonna
    and the mirror is home to a hag.

    This is a time of dark and inglorious days
    as the world looks away while
    her senses sense insane nonsense.


    Dedicated to every loopy, loony, schizy out there in la-la land

    This breakdown of the parts,
    neurotransmitters and synapses,
    recognises my physicality,
    though I am a mental being.

    Gudrun Hinze

    Now that you are not quite right upstairs
    and a candidate for Bedlam
    your brain will be malformed
    awash with chemical imbalances
    the basal ganglia, frontal lobe
    limbic system, auditory system
    occipital lobe, hippocampus and
    neurotransmitters are faulty
    there will be structural abnormalities
    neurological abnormalities
    neuropsychological abnormalities
    electrophysiological abnormalities
    cerebral metabolic abnormalities
    and your brain is almost certain to be
    smaller than a healthy one.
    Face it you've got a dud brain.

    You have inherited a schizophrenic gene
    infectious agents are working away in your body
    it could be that your cat caused your lunacy
    perhaps a naughty virus has invaded you
    your cholinergic system could be in trouble
    or you are in need of mega doses of vitamin B3.

    You are having an outburst of homosexual libido
    there are repressed sexual complexes
    you have an abnormal psychosexual constitution
    and we can't dismiss your psychic regression
    your loss of ego boundaries
    the gross impairment of your reality testing
    or your regression to an earlier infantile
    phase of psychosexual development.

    You have a disorder of self-experience
    involving hyperreflexivity and diminished self-affection
    and hypersensitivity to human contact
    you are the victim of the
    foreclosure of the Name-of-the-Father and
    therefore inhabited and possessed by language
    don't discount modernity either because
    your madness is the product of industrial capitalism
    one can't rule out your family driving you mad
    especially your mother (don't take it personally)
    and the traumas you experienced in childhood
    it could be the marijuana you smoked
    you may simply be having a sane response to an insane

    Look, you really are in a bad way
    I suggest you have a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down
    while this psychotic episode passes.


    Roll up, roll up
    join me on the medication trolley
    I've been on it for years
    I was Largactiled with bitter syrup
    I was Pimozided and Melleriled and numbed
    I was so Stelazined I was like a cat on a hot tin roof
    I've been Modecated into a shuffle
    and Clozapined into a stupor
    I was Seranaced to drowsiness
    and Abilifyed to sleeplessness
    when I was Risperidoned I lactated like a cow
    they Cogentined me to stop the look ups but I kept looking
    I was Lithiumed and Epilimed to even my pendulum
    I've been Imipramined, Prothiadened, Lexaproed
    Effexored and Zolofted to happiness
    I was Valiumed and Ativaned into tranquillity
    at bedtime I was Mogadoned, Stilnoxed and
    Temazapamed to slumber-land
    now I'm Zyprexaed and ravenous and fuzzled
    I'm Lamotrigined and balanced
    and Seroquelled
    yes indeedy, I'm medicated and dedicated to
    the medication trolley
    here's looking at you pill bottles.

    Cold Chemical Comfort

    (After Wislawa Szymborska)

    I'm an antipsychotic
    I mend broken minds
    let me turn your paranoia into trust
    your confusion into clarity
    I'll expel those voices and
    tame your wild delusions
    I'll numb your pain and deaden your anxiety
    I know how to lighten your load
    in the absence of family and friends.

    But I have a dark side
    I'll make your head feel like it's
    stuffed with cotton wool
    your ideas will evaporate in a fog
    I'll make you crave McDonalds and sugar
    have you eating food
    like a deranged hog
    I'll watch you grow into obesity
    with each morsel of me
    I'll do away with your desires and urges
    your mouth will feel like a sandpit
    your hands will tremble
    and you'll wobble
    you won't shit for days at a time
    my kindness will eventually kill you.

    But I am your chemical lifeline
    give me your madness and
    I'll soften it with sedation
    just swallow me with water
    let my cold chemicals comfort you.


    My brain is marinating
    in a blend of antipsychotics
    sanity tastes bitter.

    Unquiet Mind

    It must be that the mind is elsewhere,
    somewhere or nowhere.

    Gudrun Hinze
    Furled wings
    (flap & flail)
    the uneven air
    she is
    & un-steady
    drowning in
    (fume & chaos)
    rousing to the
    of an
    unwelcome presence
    overcome by the
    of braying persecution
    reason is
    stillness hemorrhages
    a crack is
    & no light gets in.

    Of Shifting Images and Auras

    She is a polyphonic song of moving moods
    of shifting images and auras of dreams
    her panorama of imagined selves is a
    mythical poly-perception in a transforming world
    she is the force for creation and
    the impulse to self-annihilation
    she is untouching and untouchable
    the subject and object of her own madness
    a towering Babel of psychotic dissonance
    the one who drove Dionysus to madness
    who herself is driven mad by him
    she is his delusion and fantasy and
    her own delusional polymorphous thought
    she is a flawed work of art in an illuminated
    wonderland of rhythms and Humours
    she is a self who is never alone
    but she walks alone in the world.

    Acrostic #1

    For Heidi

    The S Factor

    craziness creates a
    illumination of the
    originality its
    humour its
    every outsider
    nonconformist work of art is an
    act of lunacy.

    Seeing the Insane

    The mad purify us
    with their sacrifice

    Elizabeth Campbell

    They stand at eternity's gate
    gifted by the gods with a divine madness
    Crazy Jane, Crazy Ann, Mad Kate
    a rake in a madhouse
    lunatics dancing at a ball
    Charcot's madwomen of Salpêtrière
    fools on a ship
    Tom O'Bedlam
    a knight errant attacking windmills
    Tasso imagining Gerusalemme Conquistata
    Lear fantastically dressed in wild flowers
    drowned Ophelia
    Mad Naomi of Kaddish
    Dürer's Melancholia
    the madwoman in the attic
    the March Hare and Mad Hatter
    Mad Meg at the Gates of Hell
    a bewildered face in Goya's Madhouse
    an inmate in the men's ward at Arles.

    They are the fascination of Art
    a curiosity of history
    a gift to the world
    a mirror to our sanity.

    Waging War

    A mind is a theatre of war
    tanks rumble across the synapses
    the light horse brigade charges through the frontal lobes
    mustard gas poisons serotonin and dopamine
    artillery barrages neurotransmitters.
    The armies of reason and insanity face off
    dispatches from the psych wards report fierce fighting
    the casualties are mounting
    no prisoners taken.
    What will the war memorials say?
    They gave their sanity
    we honour them.

    This is not the war to end all wars.
    A mind wages perpetual war —
    against itself.

    Alice in Larundel Land


    rabbit hole
    & landed in
    topsy-turvy Larundel Land
    locked up
    captive to lunacy
    & a passing parade of
    Mad Hatters & March Hares
    eccentrics &
    musos & artists & a poet or two
    & ordinary folk
    with the
    & in-con-ceiv-able lunacy
    sharing delusions
    like needles
    voices babbling in the background
    ECT before breakfast
    stelazine for lunch
    prothiaden for dinner
    melleril at
    & to bed with a hallucination & a
    — a place full of hunger —
    hunger for
    — kindness,
    — friendship,
    — love
    a curious, (secluded) world
    its dark side
    kept well hidden
    shadow-haunted inmates longing for peace
    with themselves
    no one knowing the wars that raged within
    or the deep pain wedged between
    (spirit & flesh)
    destroying lives —
    friends & family picking up the pieces.
    Larundel Land's
    red brick walls now rubble
    windows s-h-a-t-t-e-r-e-d
    graffiti telling another story
    a playground for vandals & urban explorers
    once peaceful gardens
    sombre ghosts roam the precinct
    calling us to remember them —
    we will remember you
    sitting in smoky rooms
    crying alone
    laughing with deranged angels
    — muddled & paranoid
    — chaotic & manic
    — anarchic & confused
    prisoners stalking locked wards
    keys jangling
    medication trollies
    r-u-m-b-ling into melancholic rooms
    & the humour
    you will not be forgotten —
    we shall erect a monument
    to commemorate all who
    through Larundel Land
    we will     remember
    the hell-hole & sanctuary
    the bottomless pit of despair
    unexpected place
    of healing
    Alice landed on her head
    in upside down
    Larundel Land
    the madhouse that once stood on the
    — edge of
    where time dawdled
    & everyone hid in the

    The Dark Hours

    I love the dark hours of my being
    My mind deepens into them.


    come upon me without warning
    opening wide the rifts of my mind
    their insufferable nights
    of reckoning and judgement
    endless whimpering self-pity
    of a life half lived in regret.

    I spend too much time in these hours
    my mind darkens into them
    a long creep into a deep weeping wound
    where I know myself too well
    a place of all lost dreams
    a place of ever-forming sorrows
    a place of a never-ending ache
    I see too much
    feel too much
    labour with my inconsolable self
    yield to my sombre mood.

    This is a dark hour
    in which my soul does not rest in peace
    yet a poem is born.


    The wall between us is very thin.
    Why wouldn't a cry from one of us
    Break it down?


    The wall between us God is a fortress
    we shall never cry to you again
    nor hear your cry to us

    but if that wall were dismantled
    would we meld with your divinity
    stand at the gates to the other side

    teetering on the edge of perception?
    But that is for another time.
    It is the paper thin walls

    which crumble, we fear madness
    calling from behind, shaking
    their sheaths, rattling their partitions

    stalking us from within
    its uninvited companion is acuity.
    We walk in the midst of such sharpness

    barely holding ourselves together
    knowing there is no completeness
    in this flood of sensory wakefulness

    because as keenness overwhelms us
    and the flimsy walls quiver
    we dangle from a thread of sanity

    while madness snaps at our heels.

    Ceaseless Night

    The mind is sick tonight.
    Raymond Carver

    Ah Night, as your dust settles upon us
    you bring rest — even to the wicked
    but in my room you set your shades upon me
    and wrench me from my slumber.

    This bed is a rack
    and your torturer slowly turns the screw
    until a confession is uttered.

    No solace in the darkness
    only the noise of silence and
    the fitful pounding of the heart
    and the throb, throb, throb of one's head
    and always their bitter recriminations.

    To want for peace
    but the soul consumes itself
    how hard it is to wrestle with the Angel.

    O Night, long, unendurable Night
    your claw reaches inward
    and one lies in frightful wake —
    cunning how the dawdling morning
    colludes with you
    cruel, ceaseless Night.

    The mind is sick tonight
    and night after night after night
    the mind turns on itself — and bites.


Excerpted from The Mad Poet's Tea Party by Sandy Jeffs. Copyright © 2015 Sandy Jeffs. Excerpted by permission of Spinifex Press Pty Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


The Madwoman in this Poem,
Sensing Madness,
Cold Chemical Comfort,
Unquiet Mind,
Of Shifting Images & Auras,
Acrostic #1,
Seeing the Insane,
Waging War,
Alice in Larundel Land,
The Dark Hours,
Ceaseless Night,
The Witching Hour,
The Burrow,
Mental Rape,
Occupy My Mind,
Caring for My Mind,
Therapy: Prices Update,
To Melancholia,
Into the Dark Wood,
The Mad Poet's Tea Party,
Acrostic #2,
Super Madwoman,
I Peeped,
I Called You Mad,
There's Something Dead in My House,
When They Came to Get You,
I am Not the Same Person,
Surgery of the Soul,
Calculating the Cost,
Staying Alive,
To Be or Not To Be,
The Social Worker,
Where is the Rage?,
The Sanity App,
Done to Death,
A Life,

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