Poet’s statement: “Views from the Asylum” is an ekphrasis of Van Gogh’s works from his 1889 period, when he self-admitted to Saint-Paul-de-Mausole and produced 150 paintings while in that asylum. It is interesting that he painted so much and so clearly under constraint. The same phenomenon is echoed by poets who argue that using a particular poetic form, be it a sonnet or a particular rhyme scheme, although a constraint, frees them from a lot of other worries (e.g., length, sound, and closing).
The goal of “Inviting Micropsia” was to capture, from the patient’s perspective, the situation of being asked to read the Snellen eye chart, with a comical exaggeration of what the patient is doing: focusing on their position (the one-eyed stance), being challenged to eye waning letters, ritualistically calling out groups of letters recited by millions, and the near surreal descent of guessing at disappearing letters.
Views from the asylum
Ever, ever, yes, host to the insane,
ROBERT FERRARI, MD, MSc is a clinical professor of the Department of Medicine, University of Alberta. He is interested in the study of Latin and the romance languages. His poetry has been published in Canadian Medical Association Journal and Journal of General Internal Medicine, with a selection currently in press with the Canadian Journal of Pathology.