Please use this blog to help us remember Joshua Lee Anderson, who made the tragic and fatal decision to take his life on Wednesday, March 18, 2009. Please post any memories or thoughts you may have in the comments.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

5 Years and 7 Months Later - Book: "Poetry as Survival" by Gregory Orr and Original Poem: "No Answer"

I have just finished reading Poetry as Survival by Gregory Orr, a professor of English at the University of Virginia. I loved it; it felt like I was taking a seminar course on how poetry, specifically the personal lyric, has the power to save, heal and transform the individual suffering from trauma.

He begins with his own personal tragedy.  At twelve, he was responsible for a hunting accident which killed his younger brother.  His parents did not blame him but neither did they console or comfort him, being overwhelmed with their own grief.  Two years later, his mother died unexpectedly after a routine medical procedure. The grief and guilt was overwhelming.

Through his high school English teacher, he found poetry and like Anne Sexton, it saved him.  He wrote his first poem and did not look back.  And this book is like a treatise, an argument - laid out carefully as if by an expert lawyer - on the healing powers of the lyric, personal, "I" poem in dealing with personal chaos caused by trauma.

He argues that from the time language was invented, when confronted with destabilizing human experience and emotions, man has used the lyric poem to express the inexpressible, to say the unsayable, to give order to chaos so that the poet could not only survive but then be connected to fellow sufferers. Poetry is then a way out of the silence and alienation that come from personal crisis.
When someone, in the throes of a powerful and disturbing experience, turns instinctively to the writing or reading of a poem, it is because they sense the personal lyric can be a powerful aid in helping them survive and make sense of their experience.
Echoing Anne Sexton's thoughts that poets are artists and as such, must turn to and examine the abyss of internal pain and inner chaos in order to write authentically; for them, the confines of the poem and the tools of language provide a safe place from which to do so. For the page is a finite space to house the words that speak the unspeakable. The poet can use formal techniques such as meter and rhyme which can further exert control and structure. Even in free verse, there is structure - albeit informal.

And to describe the indescribable, poets have the tools of figurative language: symbols, imagery, similes and metaphors that can be subtle or in-your-face. The more intuitive and surprising, the better.
In the personal lyric, the self encounters its existential crises in symbolic form, and the poem that results is a model of this encounter. By making such a dramatized, expressive model of its crisis, the self is able to acknowledge the existence, nature, and power of what is destabilizing it, while at the same time asserting its ultimate mastery over the disordering by the power of its linguistic and imaginative orderings. 
I can relate. I have instinctively turned to poetry as a means to express my deepest thoughts and feelings - see posts.  While they are the work of a true novice, I re-read these poems and are taken right back to the moment, thought or feeling. They still ring true.

For example, the ONLY way I could ever write about that horrible morning was in a short, terse, sparse poem. This describes what I saw, felt and heard.

No Answer
by Sue Anderson

No answer,
   Voice silent.

No response, 
   Mind gone.

No sight, 
   Eyes unblinking.

No movement,
   Body stiff.

No breath,
   Chest still.

No beat, 
   Extremities blue.

No life,
   Hope abandoned.

Why?  I screamed,
   No answer.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Joshua Ball - Annual Fall Fundraiser on October 23, 2014

The Josh Anderson Foundation's fall fundraiser has traditionally been an informal but successful and growing bar fundraiser - see post on last year's event.  We determined that having outgrown the space, it was time to "graduate" to a more formal fundraising event, hence the first annual Joshua Ball.

Date: Thursday, October 23, 2014
Time: 7 - 10pm
Place: The Top of the Town   1400 N. 14th Street  Arlington, VA22209
Cost:  $100 per ticket

If you live in the Washington DC area please come and support our crucial mission to stop teenage suicide.   If you are not local, please consider donating to this worthy cause.

CLICK HERE to go to the event page where you can find out more, purchase tickets or donate.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Moving Video by Teen Who Survived Suicide Attempt

Sad news recently as teen suicide deaths in our area continue.  This time, two high school girls have taken the tragic, irrevocable action to end their lives….new victims of the "permanent solution to a temporary problem."

It is hard to describe how I feel upon hearing the news: first, OH NO, NOT ANOTHER YOUNG LIFE! then deep heartache in thinking about the intense pain of the poor mother and the terrible grief journey the families must now endure.

And it brings it all up again for me.

In a twitter feed that mourned the loss of one of the girls, a video called "What if I killed myself…" was posted.  Here is a description: "This video is produced by 1VoiceInside for Suicide Prevention Month. Hopefully this video helps to de-stigmatize suicide and opens people's minds to the true helplessness and hopelessness that mental illness induces."

A young man shares about his battle with depression and suicidal ideation.  Thankfully his attempt did not succeed and he courageously tells his story.  The first time I saw the video, my heart flipped because his basketball jersey number was #33, which was Josh's football jersey number.

His message is so important as kids need to know that they are not alone,  On June 5th of this year, the Josh Anderson Foundation (JAF) co-sponsored a Teen-To-Teen Mental Health Summit where 5 kids also courageously shared their stories.  This successful program is one that we want to repeat and multiply - view post to see video and learn more.

As a society and in our communities and families, there MUST be a paradigm shift in how we view mental illness. I long for the day when we have the same understanding and empathy towards a kid suffering from a mental illness like clinical depression as if he/she were a diabetic.  Both kids need to manage their illnesses (medication, activities, etc) to avoid the devastating and affects of the disease.  And if they don't, the consequences could be fatal.

Yet today, in middle and high schools across America, the kid struggling with a mental health issue  feels isolated due to the stigma.  They cannot be real and open about what is really going on inside because of fear…fear of what people will think, what they will say, how they will be treated.

No kid should have to live in shame and fear.

No kid should have to suffer in silence.

No kid should have to feel like suicide is their only viable option. 

RIP Josh and all the others who are in my heart.