“In this unique and poignant memoir, Abenaki/French Canadian poet Cheryl Savageau describes her bipolar disorder in lyrical, clear and candid prose.” Karla Strand, Ms. Magazine
“With lyrical language and powerful episodic storytelling Cheryl Savageau brings luminous clarity to her experience of navigating the Crazywoods. She draws us into an inner world, both mythic and mystifying, of being bipolar, which at times reflects the dynamic intricacy of New England’s recovering forestland but also illuminates the ongoing activity and struggle of alnôbawôgan, being and becoming human.”—Lisa Brooks, author of The Common Pot: The Recovery of Native Space in the Northeast
“Cheryl Savageau’s memoir Out of the Crazywoods maps the experience of ‘bipolar’ again and again—defining and redefining, remembering and remaking, etching and resketching the shape, substance, sensation, and sentiment of her experience of ‘being’ bipolar and coming to that diagnosis and recognition. . . . Savageau’s luminous prose ripples, soars, and shines with grounded honesty, some biting humor, and richly textured sensory detail (some quite synesthetic). This is a compelling work of complex embodiment, complicated relations (with self and other), and careful narrative. It demonstrates how one writes identity and, too, how identity can be (well) written.”—Brenda Jo Brueggemann, editor of Disability Studies Quarterly
“Abenaki poet and memoirist Cheryl Savageau’s stunning collection of braided vignettes leads us through the chaos many of us know, toward tenuous, hard-won places of compassion, joy, and possibility. Savageau writes, ‘I live on that edge between what is true, what is sacred and magical, and where madness begins.’ Yes, this memoir is disturbing, disruptive—and, reading it, we are stronger, heartened for this journey between spaces of identity, the cusps and edges of brilliance, becoming human.”—Deborah A. Miranda, author of Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir
Out of the Crazywoods is the riveting and insightful story of Abenaki poet Cheryl Savageau’s late-life diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Without sensationalizing, she takes the reader inside the experience of a rapid-cycling variant of the disorder, providing a lens through which to understand it and a road map for navigating the illness. The structure of her story—impressionistic, fragmented—is an embodiment of the bipolar experience and a way of perceiving the world.
Out of the Crazywoods takes the reader into the euphoria of mania as well as its ugly, agitated rage and into “the lying down of desire” that is depression. Savageau articulates the joy of being consort to a god and the terror of being chased by witchcraft, the sound of voices that are always chattering in your head, the smell of wet ashes that invades your home, the perception that people are moving in slow motion and death lurks at every turnpike, and the feeling of being loved by the universe and despised by everyone you’ve ever known.
Central to the journey out of the Crazywoods is the sensitive child who becomes a poet and writer who finds clarity in her art and a reason to heal in her grandchildren. Her journey reveals the stigma and the social, personal, and economic consequences of the illness but reminds us that the disease is not the person. Grounded in Abenaki culture, Savageau questions cultural definitions of madness and charts a path to recovery through a combination of medications, psychotherapy, and ceremony.
To Purchase Out of the Crazywoods: Nebraska Press
“Wet Ashes” – published in Issue 15 of Hinchas De Poesia.
“The Tarot” – published in Issue 15 of Hinchas De Poesia.