Health, wellness, well-being, words which resonate with the most basic social questions of how we are toward one another. This year our answers have been drastically rearranged – we care for one another with distance, and forego almost all the habits of flourishing or eudaimonia. Not that it’s ever been simple: our essayists for Overland 239 approach these problems from a wide variety of intersecting experiences and disciplines.
rantz Fanon spent much of his life in hospitals, as a worker, writer, and patient. Much of Fanon’s work examined hospitals as institutions of social control, medicalising criminality, and exercising colonial powers. To Fanon, ‘colonialism in its essence was already taking on the aspect of a fertile purveyor for psychiatric hospitals’ – creating the social conditions that enabled the diagnosis of psychiatric disorders, and in turn, the need for institutions capable of housing and controlling the ‘sick’.
By now there is enough criticism of the mental health business out there that it seems to me most engaged readers have been informed about the problems: psychiatry makes a false equivalence of the brain and the person, psychiatry pathologises some of the normal problems of human life, psychiatrists enforce highly constrained norms of thought and behaviour, and psychiatrists don’t value patients’ autonomy. There is still however a lot of confusion about the status of the things that psychiatrists treat. These are by no means illnesses, and the medications doctors use to treat them are by no reasonable measure effective.
December 22. Nothing but ravens in the sky. The winter solstice, my second of the year, is drawing us into the heart of a great mist. Two winters, like two long swimming pools. Not quite interminable, but there is a moment midway when the flags are lost, and there is a panicked intake of breath as the feet try for the bottom but the lungs know they won’t reach. Summer in Melbourne is at its fullest, ripest swell.
Tris didn’t do things by halves. Neither did his illness. By his early 20s, a severe case of ulcerative colitis had ravaged his body, leaving it an angry and inflamed version of its former. On the precipice between life and death, he’d lost more than 30 kilograms. A solitary photo from this time shows the devastation. He stands in a hospital room leaning on a walking stick, a bushy beard covering his jawline, his chest a rack of bones.
Edith, please don’t call it that anymore. Accelerationism has stopped being the focus of the group. He’s in a group-chat right now, he messages, where they’re organising a new name for the meetings. Witch-House Social Club is winning. Accelerationism’s not an okay thing to believe. The Metro cancelled us. (Their cancellation took form in an article, published 18 March, carrying the title: What is ‘Accelerationism’, the belief followed by the New Zealand terror attacker?) We’re just a club for people who like witch-house.
A bit about me: I was created from cooling magma during the Late Devonian period. Part of the Harcourt granodiorite formation in Victoria, I spent my early life underground before emerging into the air as the soil above me weathered away. Things are more interesting above ground, although I’m slowly shrinking as sun, wind and rain wear me down. Eventually, I will be little more than soil myself.
I was asked why I volunteer at the library and I couldn’t think of a pithy answer. Books don’t get violent when I say the wrong thing but I couldn’t say that. Books don’t scowl at me while I talk. I’ve mulled over the question a lot and I think I can explain it best by telling you about a certain time in my life.
My lipstick is sticky from the heat. It slips over my lips too quickly, forcing me to scrape the edge of my mouth with a fingernail to remove a smudge. My sister Anička frowns when she sees me. ‘What are you planning to do? Flirt with them until they agree to leave our country?’
The old man would give you a flogging for a lot less than dipping into his stash. Not that I’d ever wanted to touch dope. I’d sworn myself enemy to all things that made him who he was, dope being a great contributor. But down behind the shed, where the long grass scratched my shins, I clipped off a decent chunk. The buds felt like furry balls of cotton. I zip-locked it and stashed it down my jocks.
I’ve been given horrible news before. The usual deal. Someone passes away, you find out over the phone and have no idea how to keep the conversation going. Oh gosh, I’m so sorry, that’s terribly sad. Something like that. It never feels sincere, even if it lands like you’ve taken a massive boot to the gut.
when i read at sappho’s last week my lower left jaw was packed with cotton wool to stop a broken tooth from tearing at my ulcerated tongue the poems were saved from humiliation
My grief wakes up and phones a small town in Turkey. My grief accepts bribes in fresh fruit. My grief beats its imaginary friend. My grief calls out for food from the concrete factory. My grief owns a Citroën but won’t tell anyone.
i. two monitors the cop & neighbour in your head duplicity in systems the sprinkler is wetting everything
Remember when you wrote that poem? On the first line you levered two ideas in five words. On the second line you decided it was a holiday. By the third line you sold your ego to the universe. But the fourth line had you phoning for travel insurance.
Once off the ship from sector blah blah <
In the hours of the tide’s chill retreat the bubbler crabs redraw the atlas. Pearls of sand spread and reach in strands the length of the beach,
agreeing the coastlines of new continents, tracking minute deltas and dotted bays,
Over a table-surface the lampreys of fingers subsisting on air and nothing. They erupt into sentience as all things fossils admit them as honorary sediment at the seabed and their hands pretend
The storm glass agrees it has been a winter of oddities—big soft flakes at the surface, a tangle of collapsing fractals below.
murder reduced to counting bodies naming names dates and days processioning through plagued streets grief – a spectacle feeding news
We stop the Subaru in a town west of the Dividing Range where a café door is camouflaged by pink plastic streamers that don’t keep the flies out and the taciturn shopkeeper is wearing a Keith Urban t-shirt (Light the Fuse Tour 2013).
Acacia all black from the bone cup and a daughter born with a blue quandong sucked to the stone between her lips, the shadow of a camphor laurel leaf
“I hope one day to welcome Behrouz Boochani to Australia as what I believe he has shown himself to be in these pages. A writer. A great Australian writer”, Richard Flanagan writes in the foreword to Behrouz Boochani’s No Friend But The Mountains (2018). In a comment designed to spark public conversation regarding Australia’s ethical obligation to the incarcerated immigrants on islands inside and outside our coastline, Flanagan puts into play the tenuous category of the ‘Australian writer’.
Black child — born deviant from norms of western culture. Dispossessed like a refugee in a sea of white divisiveness where cognitive capabilities
are measured on a colour scale according to my phenotypic reality.
Here sits an edifice; a pulpit raised of shears rumbarrels chains ships bullets theft and bloodred death book-lined, velvet-curtained veneered in an unctuous justice samely coating all the lives adjoined.
it starts with smoke it always starts with smoke mothers burred at the belly swollen as the great trees…