3 Questions for Susan
What was your process for creating this work?
I start by using black ink to outline a certain word that stands out to me from a block of text on the page. I keep “reading” the text from left to right, looking for words to connect to the previous outlined words in a way which will hopefully lead to the creation of new and unexpected meanings from the original source text. I don’t read too far down the page before I outline a given word, which can be risky because sometimes I find I have no path forward. But I think that risk is part of what makes the process so enjoyable for me. I use a fine tipped colored marker to cover the text I don’t want to use by making a series of small cursive “u”s over the print. I then cover the text further with a mix of color pencils. I sometimes add simple illustrations or graphic art as well.
What is the significance of the form/genre you chose for this work?
I have been using my 1500 page Gray's Anatomy textbook (36th British Edition, Williams and Warwick, 1980) as a source text. This was one of the main text books I used in college. As a physical therapist I worked in patient care for many years helping people recover and adapt to illness or injury until I became unable to work myself due to illness in 2020. Through my work as a healthcare professional I developed a deep appreciation and respect for the human body and the human spirit. Not being able to practice was disorienting and I think reclaiming the space in this medical textbook by the way of “found” poetry was a way to help me process the life changes I was experiencing and see a new path forward.
What is the significance of this work to you?
In making my way through the dry scientific language of this text, which focuses in minute detail on the human body and its processes, I sometimes wonder if I was trying to squeeze out little psychic messages to myself. I had been writing poetry for years, and had been diagnosed with chronic illness for years, but I had mostly avoided writing about my experiences both as practitioner and patient. This project seemed to offer a space to engage in the convergence of these previously separate worlds.
Susan Barry-Schulz grew up just outside of Buffalo, New York. She is a licensed physical therapist living with chronic illness and an advocate for mental health and reducing stigma in IBD. Her poetry has appeared in New Verse News, SWWIM, Barrelhouse online, Nightingale & Sparrow, Shooter Literary Magazine, Kissing Dynamite, Bending Genres, Feral, Quartet and elsewhere.