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Wayne State University Press

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Published: September 2022
ISBN: 9780814349878
Pages: 150 Size: 7 x 8
Published: September 2022
ISBN: 9780814349885

Gold Medal winner in the Midwest Independent Book Awards!
Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist!
Bronze Medal winner from the Independent Publisher Book Awards!

Stephanie Heit’s hybrid memoir poem blasts the page electric and documents her experience of shock treatment. Using a powerful mélange of experimental forms, she traces her queer mad bodymind through breathlessness, damage, refusal, and memory loss as it shifts in and out of locked psychiatric wards and extreme bipolar states. Heit survives to give readers access to this somatic, visceral rendering of a bipolar life complete with sardonic humor, while showing us the dire need for new paradigms of mental health care outside closets, attics, prisons, and wards. Psych Murders adds a vital layer of lived experience of electroshocks and suicidal ideation to the growing body of literature of madness and mental health difference.

Stephanie Heit is a queer disabled poet, dancer, teacher, and codirector of Turtle Disco, a somatic writing space. She is a psych system/shock survivor, bipolar, a mad activist, Zoeglossia Fellow, and a member of Olimpias, a disability performance collective. She lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan, on Three Fires Confederacy territory and is the author of the poetry collection The Color She Gave Gravity.

This is a brilliant book of poetry-memoir-witness that crosses many borders and shines a naked and daring light on the horrors of psychic suffering at critical levels beyond the pale of endurance. Stephanie Heit transforms her horrors and scars into a palpable wisdom to benefit others in this magnificent testament to love and survival. She is a starling word- and world-worker and a compassionate, original voice in the wilderness. I bow at her investigative bravery, the loneliness of the journey. ‘The brain as abandoned city that just needs some light’ is a searing analogy we should all wake up to recognize.

– Anne Waldman, poet, chancellor emeritus, The Academy of American Poets, author of Trickster Feminism

With tender consideration in the midst of profound psychic pain, Heit guides readers through the journey of psychiatric treatment to confront the 'murderer’ in the mind. Suicidal ideation ‘crowds out beauty,’ but these poems are lucidly crystalline songs of light; not the doctor’s interrogative glare but lanterns shining us home.

– Roxanna Bennett, author of Unmeaningable & The Untranslatable I

Stephanie Heit’s Psych Murders bears witness to shock treatments, psychiatric wards, and medical interventions. Here suicidal ideation takes the life of an inner murderer, personified. This hybrid lyric memoir pulls no punches. ‘I play with pills, pistols, plastics. In my mind. Siren red. Maize and blue of the University Hospital where everyone knows my name.’ Harrowing and brave; illuminating and haunting.

– Hoa Nguyen, author of A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure

Psych Murders is a tightly woven and lyrical exposé of the flexibility and failure of language when it remains an accomplice to our collective socialization under ableism. This is necessary and dangerous work, and it is a stunning addition to the crip canon.

– Meg Day, author of Last Psalm at Sea Level

Drawn from the vivid, hallucinatory medical notes Stephanie Heit took during inpatient treatment, Psych Murders opens with addresses to the Psych Murderer, a sociopathic bureaucratic persona that feels like an internalized form of the institution: ‘You live invisible in the blur of my eye.’ The psychiatric institutional setting—with its clinical apparatuses of electroshock treatment—‘architected to increase anxiety,’ restructures the body and Heit’s lines into alternative choreographies, the twitch of synaptic decoherence. The body incorporates the sum total of its treatments and diagnoses—and is a ‘DSM-V masterpiece,’ which can also be said of the book itself, a devastating and exhilarating read!

– Vidhu Aggarwal, author of The Trouble with Humpadori and Daughter Isotope

Psych Murders is a deeply felt and known work of somatic writing. Stephanie Heit is a writer who does not look away from ‘so much unknown,’ inhabiting the ‘blur’ and ‘the beauty’ in equal measure. How do we write when we're exhausted? Or: How do we survive the book? Heit answers these questions with radical care and visceral acuity, in all weathers.

– Bhanu Kapil, .

I love being an educator, sharing knowledge and expanding horizons. But every once in a while there is the ultimate moment when you know that you have given your students a gift, a text or experience that is and will remain precious to them on a deeply personal level. Tonight, when Stephanie Heit read from her amazing work, Psych Murders, and spoke with my class, I got to have such a moment. Thank you Stephanie, for the gift of your art and your presence! What a wonder it is to witness the power of art.

– Christine Neufeld, Educator

Psych Murders carves out a possibility for a different kind of bodymind health practice where desire and care might find a different mode of expression.

– Orchid Tierney, Aquifer, The Florida Review Online

In Psych Murders, Heit invites the reader into her innermost world. No matter the readers’ experience with mental health (and the mental health system in the U.S.), they’ll be able to learn and better understand the challenges that bipolar people and those who experience suicidal ideation face. Although the speaker tells The Murderer, "You crowd out beauty," the beauty of Heit’s words, observations and rhythms make this poetry-memoir hybrid an important and revelatory book.

– Liz DeGregorio, ANMLY

Psych Murders is a powerful and disturbing book. Building upon the tradition of "nothing about us without us" within disability literature, Heit’s poems allow those who actually live with disability to speak for themselves.

– Michael Northen, Wordgathering

Psych Murders is a much-needed 'shadow text' countering the dangerous and dominant ableist narrative of what it means to be normal or capable.

– Kara Dorris, Heavy Feather Review

  • 2023 Independent Publisher Book Award - Result: Bronze medalist in category of Poetry-Speciality
  • 2023 Eric Hoffer Book Awards - Result: Finalist
  • 2023 Midwest Book Awards - Result: Finalist in category of General Poetry
  • 2023 Next Generation Indie Book Award - Result: Finalist in category of poetry
  • 2023 Midwest Book Awards - Result: Gold medalist in category of General Poetry