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March 25 , 2010

Two Hemispheres


Shortlisted for the 2008 Pat Lowther Award, the 2008 Lampman Scott Award and the 2008 ReLit Awards

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Imagining the lives of nineteenth-century women asylum patients, Nadine McInnis charts her descent into, and recovery from, depression.

In the afterword to Two Hemispheres, McInnis describes her first encounter with the remarkable photographs that illustrate this moving volume. Patients of the Surrey County Lunatic Asylum, these women's names and stories are lost to history. McInnis imagines their experiences of mental illness as she explores her own journey through clinical depression, and finds in these haunting photographs solace and community.

I used to embellish an impressive picture
of the woman whose palms
I mysteriously possess, describing her
right down to her mismatched shoes:
her gait, stiff and shuffling, from nights spent
sleeping under the bridge near the off-ramp,
her hair, a tangled nest of leaves and dead grass.

– from "Entertainment: a dramatic spectacle"

"In the medical world, the body is often described metaphorically as a machine. Physician-poet William Carlos Williams invoked a similar metaphor when he noted that a poem is a machine made of words. What intrigues me about Nadine McInnis's insightful collection of poems is how the mechanics of poetry serve to explore what can happen when we as human machines break down. Equally captivating in these evocative and sometimes disturbing poems is the historical impetus for their creation-Victorian medical photographs. Two Hemispheres truly acts as a causeway between past and present, health and illness, and the supposed vastly different worlds of arts and biomedicine." - Dr. J.T.H. Connor, John Clinch Professor of Medical Humanities and History of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University, St. John's, Newfoundland

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