June 3: “Going Sane” with Pamela Spiro Wagner

original painting by Pamela Spiro Wagner
“FORK YOU, PSYCHIATRY” by Pamela Spiro Wagner

What: Hive monthly potluck featuring Pamela Spiro Wagner with her multi-media presentation “Going Sane”
When: Saturday, June 3, 5-7 pm
Where: The Root Social Justice Center, 28 Williams St., Brattleboro

Facebook event page

Pamela Spiro Wagner, a Brattleboro resident, will be featured at the Hive potluck on June 3 to present her multi-media account of “Going Sane” — her account of how, nearly broken by the treatments and sadistic brutalities accorded her as an inpatient in hospital after hospital, and labelled as hardened and hopeless, she gave the mental health system the “fork you” finger and emerged on the other side, no longer “just another mental patient” but a whole human being.

Wagner was a prisoner of psychiatry for decades, having been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic as well as personality-disordered by those who believed her prognosis for recovery was extremely poor. Despite “treatment” with restraints and seclusion often for days at a time, and massive doses of medication that made her feel like a “moonrock,” she managed to co-author (with her twin sister, a psychiatrist)  DIVIDED MINDS: TWIN SISTERS AND THEIR JOURNEY THROUGH SCHIZOPHRENIA, a popular memoir that details what happened to her within  the mental illness system. Later, in her book of poetry, WE MAD CLIMB SHAKY LADDERS, she depicts  the varieties of mad struggles from within, in poems as accessible as they are moving.

Now in her new book of poems and art, each piece an original drawn or painted within the last ten years, LEARNING TO SEE IN THREE DIMENSIONS, Wagner looks to reach a wider audience while still “speaking frankly, forgive me” about the mad experience.

An artist, writer and poet who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia for decades, Pamela Spiro Wagner attended Brown University from 1970-1975. She later went to medical school for one and a half years, before being hospitalized for the third time for psychiatric care. In 2010, she was also diagnosed with PTSD due to trauma resulting from deeply inappropriate and punitive use of seclusion and restraints in psychiatric hospitals.

Wagner won First Place in the 2001/2 international BBC World Service Radio Poetry Competition, judged by Nobelist Wole Soyinke. In 2005, she co-authored, with her twin sister, a psychiatrist, DIVIDED MINDS: Twin Sisters and their Journey through Schizophrenia (St Martin’s Press), which won the national NAMI Outstanding Literature Award and was a finalist for the Connecticut Book Award. Four years later,  Ms Wagner’s book of poems, WE MAD CLIMB SHAKY LADDERS was published by CavanKerry Press (2009). Recently several poems won have honorable mentions at New Millennium Writings and two were short-listed for the Bridport Prize in the UK. Her writing has appeared in the The New York Times Sunday Magazine, the Hartford Courant, andTikkun among other places.  In June 2017 Wagner’s newest book of poems and art LEARNING TO SEE IN THREE DIMENSIONS, will be published by Vermont’s own Green Writers Press and Sundog Poetry

Despite experiencing much adversity in her 64 years, including the decades-long diagnosis of schizophrenia, Wagner has also been lucky enough to have had four life-changing miracles along the way. The passion to write poetry, starting in 1984, and then, quite suddenly, to take up art in 2008 at the age of 55, were just two of those miracles.  She currently resides along with her cat, Beanie Baby, in Brattleboro where she disavows all labels, including those of any mental illness.

You can also catch Pam at her book launch and gallery opening at the Hooker-Dunham gallery in Brattleboro the evening before: Friday, June 2, 6-7 pm.