Reflections from the Ash Heap
|My altered book: The Lamenting Prophetic Witness through the Eyes of Women's Insanity|
In my work as a chaplain, I hear the pain and suffering of the mentally ill. In their voices I hear lament. Their lamentations are not intentionally directed toward God. At least, not usually. Nevertheless, their laments are directed God-ward. After all that is the reason they are talking to me. They want their pain to have meaning, purpose. Their suffering is so deep that for it not to have some meaning is too utterly dark and dreadful. And that's what lamenting does: it speaks out of that dreadful darkness, it speaks what the light dare not say. The lament is bold; it is risky. The lament is shameless because it has nothing to lose.
As a poet, William Blake gave voice to lament, and he gave that lamenting voice to women. The lament of women is frightening; it is shrill. The wail of a woman's lament cools the blood and raises chill bumps. Not long ago, Blake's poetry inspired an art project. I wanted to give voice to the women in the state psychiatric hospital. I wanted to give voice to their laments in the tradition of Blake. I did so via an altered book.
In this altered book, I use art and poetry to render an artistic expression of these women's voices, their lamenting voices. The art is my own and the poetry is my own, but my inspiration comes from the deepness of their pain, their suffering, their laments. It is a work that has the power to resonate with women everywhere.
Over the next week, I will be posting images from my altered book. It is my offering from the Ash Heap of this Lenten journey.