Buzzed Books #68: Selected Poems (1950-2012)

Buzzed Books #68 by Freesia McKee

Adrienne Rich’s Selected Poems: 1950-2012

When I was a 19-year-old gender studies major, I took my first poetry class. Writing my first burgeoning poems, I tried to connect my lived experiences to what I was learning about feminism. Mid-semester, I had an individual conference with the professor. He asked me if I had heard of Adrienne Rich. You might like her work.

Nearly a decade later, Rich’s work remains, for me, essential reading. Her poetry has taught me that the new ideas may require new poetic forms; the old forms may no longer accommodate the poet. New poems may also require a new approach to setting, pronoun usage, and levels of abstraction.

Adrienne Rich Selected Poems

Rich’s 62 years of poetry are a tour de force. This month, Norton issued Adrienne Rich, Selected Poems: 1950-2012, selected by Albert Gelpi, Barbara Charlesworth Gelpi, and Brett C. Miller. Reading Selected Poems provides a useful outline of the 25 books of poetry published in Rich’s lifetime.

Rich’s work seeks to map out constellations of memories and forgettings. Many of the poems in this collection deal with the concept of time: personal time, national time, global time, times of gender and sexual identity, racial time, and dream time. She writes, “This place is alive with the dead and with the living/I have never been alone here.”

As a writer committed to questioning her own assumptions, Rich unsurprisingly also discusses the unreliability of memory. In “Eastern War Time (1989-1990),” she writes, “Memory says:       Want to do right? Don’t count on me.” Memory is a well of information and meaning, but relying on it can hurt us by distorting reality.

In the late 50s, Rich began annotating each poem with the year she wrote it, a practice she continued for the rest of her life. These annotations provide the poems with context, and when we understand the details of Rich’s life, the subject matter of abstract poems becomes clearer.

The eldest child of two sisters, Rich grew up in Baltimore, where she was first homeschooled and then attended private schools in the 1930s and 1940s. Her parents encouraged her intellect, but in some ways, she was a token “smart girl,” trained to please and impress her mentors.

After high school, Rich attended Radcliffe (women weren’t allowed to go to Harvard) and won the prestigious Yale Younger Poets Prize in her early 20s. The poetry she wrote and the life she described in this period is carved and molded, reflecting an early 20thcentury architecture. The feminist themes are nascent, and would be until her anger bled through the page in her third book Snapshots of a daughter-in-law.

Rich had three sons in her 20s. Motherhood was a role that politicized her. In the selections from her 1969 book Leaflets, we see Rich’s feminist resolve continue to galvanize. The last lines of “On Edges (1969)” read, “I’d rather/taste blood, yours or mine, flowing/from a sudden slash, than cut all day/with blunt scissors on dotted lines/like the teacher told me.” These sentiments are a far cry from her poems written in the early 50s. For example, take these lines from “At a Bach Concert”: “Form is the ultimate gift that love can offer—/The vital union of necessity.”

Readers of Selected Poemswill notice the ways in which Rich later politicized form. Her poems lengthen and become more experimental as time progresses, much in the way that memory itself stretches and folds into layers. Rich began writing sectioned, numbered poems, some of them skipping numbers or presenting them non-chronologically. Part of this departure from convention is connected to greater acceptance of artistic experimentation over the 20thcentury, but I think Rich also discovered that form is an elastic tool to convey difficult ideas.

Rich’s marriage to Alfred Conrad, a Harvard professor of economics, dissolved in the late 60s. In the early 70s, she came out as a lesbian. This period of Rich’s work marks a shift in course, a move away from imitations of the white male “canon” to a passionate engagement in intertexual feminist conversation. Echoes of Judy Grahn, Audre Lorde, and other feminist geniuses reverberate through Rich’s work.

Like many in the feminist renaissance of the 1970s, Rich reached back, pulling history’s timeline arm-length by arm-length into the present. “Did you think I was talking about my life?/I was trying to drive a tradition up against a wall,” Rich writes in Ghazals (Homage to Ghalib).

Language can be a dangerous terrain, especially for those working at the margins. To be a language worker can mean constantly questioning what we think we know. However, some jobs have physical dangers, and while I think Rich would be the first to point out how many writers have been blacklisted and disappeared even in our own country, she would also point out the privilege of the writer’s safe perch at her desk.

Rich lived a life that in some ways, society didn’t have language for. She was the daughter of a Jewish father and a Protestant mother, a lesbian who was also a mother, a partner in a committed interracial relationship, a woman intellectual. Of her family’s suppression of their Jewish identity, Rich wrote about feeling “split at the root.” As Rich wrote in “XIX” of “Twenty-One Love Poems (1974-1976),” “two women together is work/nothing in civilization has made simple.”

I bring up these examples to highlight how Rich’s poetry measures proximity. Sometimes she uses the currency of memory, sometimes identity. I think that one of Rich’s lifelong critical questions was how someone could besomething, but deny their proximity to it. Even if the denial of identity is done for survival, it is a certain kind of lie. The thinking around this question concerns trauma, safety, and “the truths we are salvaging from/the splitting-open of our lives.”

Rich considered this question from the other side as well, the side of privilege: why do artists supposedly committed to truth telling not involve themselves in real activism? Why do white feminists deny our culpability in white supremacy? How do Americans grapple with the painful truths of nationalistic violence, both here and abroad?

No matter what subject matter she dealt with, Rich committed herself to the heavy lifting required of feminists. Her focus on memory and history didn’t cement her in time. It did the opposite. Rich visioned and revisioned her opinions whenever she learned more. As she wrote in “Sources (1980)”, Rich’s work calls herself and each of us to become “the woman with a mission, not to win prizes/but to change the laws of history.”

McKee head shot

Freesia McKee is author of the chapbook How Distant the City (Headmistress Press, 2017). Her words have appeared in cream city reviewThe Feminist WirePainted Bride QuarterlyGertrudeHuffington Post, and Sundress Press’s anthology Political Punch: Contemporary Poems on the Politics of Identity. Freesia lives in North Miami.


Episode 330: Kurt Vonnegut Roundtable!


, , , , ,

Episode 330 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I am joined by Chris Lafave, Erik Deckers, and David James Poissant for a discussion of Kurt Vonnegut.

Vonnegut 2


The Sirens of Titan.jpgSlaughterhouse FiveCats CradleBreakfast of ChampionsA Man Without a Country.jpg


When in Indianapolis, visit the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library.

Vonnegut Library

If you are in Orlando, that is, the City Beautiful, this Wednesday, come celebrate the 60th anniversary of The Dharma Bums at the house where Jack wrote it.

Dharma Bums Celebration

Here is our On the Road show from last year.

Episode 330 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #239: The Shallows



The Curator of Schlock #239 by Jeff Shuster

The Shallows

Have shark, will travel.

I’m not a beach person. I don’t like the beach. Do I need to put it another way? Being a red head means that the sun is an enemy. I don’t tan. I turn into a lobster. And then there’s the water. Why do people like to go in the water? It’s salty. That salt stings the eyes. And then we have all of the living things swimming around in there. Ever been stung by a jellyfish? Well I have! Twice! That’s two times too many.


Tonight’s movie is 2016’s The Shallows from director Jaurne Collet-Serra. It stars Blake Lively as a surfer/medical student named Nancy Adams. The movie begins with her hitching a ride with a man named Carlos who knows the location of a secluded beach in Baja California. He drops her off and refuses to accept any money for the ride because it was on the way back to his house. Carlos is just a nice guy, but when Nancy asks him what the beach is named, he refuses to tell her. Nancy’s mother had recently died from cancer, and this beach was an important part of her mother’s youth. Nancy wants to reconnect with her mother by surfing some perfect waves on this beautiful beach.

Blake Lively

She meets a couple of surfer dudes. They seem nice enough, but they also refuse to tell her the name of the beach. It’s at this point that I’m wondering what’s going on. What happened at this beach? Is this where La Llorona drowned her children? The surfer dudes leave and Nancy becomes aware of a presence in the water. It’s a school of dolphins! How fun? She decides to surf back to shore. Nancy notices the floating dead carcass of a humpback whale in the distance. Suddenly, a great white shark knocks her off her surfboard!

La Llorona

I’d take La Lllorona over a great white any day of the week unless, of course, I’m one of La Llorona’s kids. Then I I’m screwed either way. The shark bites Nancy’s leg. She manages to wriggle free and swim her way over to the rotting carcass of the humpback whale. The great white charges the dead whale at ramming speed, knocking poor Nancy back into the water. She manages to swim over to a large rock poking through the surface, scraping her foot on some stinging coral along the way. Nancy isn’t have a good day.


She makes friends with a wounded seagull, which she names Steven. She manages to suture up the horrible gash in her leg with her earrings or some hooks. I don’t remember. The scene made me queasy. Later, Nancy notices a drunken man asleep on the shore. She yells at him, waking him up. She asks him to grab her cell phone and call for help. He rummages through her bag, pocketing her cell phone for himself. He then sees her fancy surfboard out in the water, another item for the pawnshop. The great white chomps him in half. I could go on, but I think I’ve explained enough of the dire stakes to y’all. Hey, Nancy named the seagull, Steven. Steven Seagull! Do you get it? Ha! Thus ends Sharks & Stalkers Month here at The Museum of Schlock.

Jeffrey Shuster 1

Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Buzzed Books #67: Essential Essays (Culture, Politics, and the Art of Poetry)

Buzzed Books #67 by Freesia McKee

Adrienne Rich’s Essential Essays: Culture, Politics, and the Art of Poetry

In college, I learned as a gender studies major that feminism encourages us to understand our lives in the context of larger social movements. Situating our experiences within larger trends helps sustain emotional and psychological survival.

Adrienne Rich Essential Essays

Adrienne Rich’s Essential Essays: Culture, Politics, and the Art of Poetry, edited by Sandra M. Gilbert and published by Norton this month, shows us how Rich spent her lifetime making personal-political connections and communicating the legacies of other feminists. The editor is a feminist literary scholar, and readers with diverse feminist interests will find much to glean from this book.

The institution of motherhood, capitalism, lesbian existence, female tokenism, racism, nationalism, and power are just a few themes Rich tackles. Included is Rich’s extensive commentary about her literary foremothers, among them Dickinson, Hurston, Bishop, Brontë, Rukeyser, de Beauvoir, Chopin, and Woolf. She also engages with her contemporaries: Lorde, Jordan, and Smith-Rosenberg, among them.

The essays themselves are readable, personal, and relevant. Decades after their initial publication, these words remain necessary. As I become an older reader and feminist, occupying new roles in my community, Rich’s prose resonates for me in evolving ways. I found myself extensively annotating even pieces I’d read multiple times before. Part of the joy of reading another’s life’s work is that you can return to it again and again, understanding her growth anew as you change yourself.

To study Rich’s prose is to study a writer committed to the long-game of feminism. “It was an astonishing time to be a woman of my age,” Rich writes of her feminist awakening during the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s in “Split at the Root.” By the time Rich was in her 30s, feminist social dissent confirmed the impulses and analyses she had long pondered.

Rich came out as a lesbian in the 1970s. She began analyzing more deeply the influence of tokenism, sexism and homophobia, and class and racial privilege in her life. Even in her earliest years of writing and publishing, Rich knew that there were “problems for the woman writer: problems of contact with herself, problems of language and style, problems of energy and survival” (“When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Revision”).

Feminist writers who use the raw material of lived experience tell a powerful story. Rich’s essay “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” about the “lesbian continuum” examines “why women’s choice of women as passionate comrades, life partners, co-workers, lovers, community has been crushed, invalidated, forced into hiding and disguise.” In this essay, Rich is not simply describing sexual or romantic relationships between women. Her idea of the lesbian continuum encompasses many different kinds of relationships.

Rich goes on to write in this same essay, “If we consider the possibility that all women…exist on a lesbian continuum, we can see ourselves as moving in and out of this continuum, whether we identify ourselves as lesbian or not.” She frames the lesbian continuum as “the sharing of a rich inner life, the bonding against male tyranny, the giving and receiving of practical and political support.” Many more people fit within this frame than what Rich calls a “mostly clinical,” traditional definition of lesbian.

Rich’s writing about the lesbian continuum is vivid terrain to re-examine now. We can conceptualize the lesbian continuum through “re-vision,” a word that Rich famously discusses in “When We Dead Awaken,” one of her earliest essays. Rich defines revision as “the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entertaining an old text from a new critical direction.”

We can re-envision Rich’s “lesbian continuum” using queer theory, which challenges the gender binary and moves us away from essentialism. We should do more than simply substitute the word “queer” for “lesbian.” The lesbian continuum could articulate and encompass all the actions, emotions, and existence that lie outside of repetitive patriarchal modes. Rich’s lesbian continuum can represent a socially and historically inclusive vision of queerness, one for which we often still struggle for language.

As we learn through reading her essays, Rich held an unwavering commitment to analyzing her relationship to feminism and revisioning feminism’s role in our evolving world. In Rich’s later life, in the 1990s and 2000s, she wrote extensively about capitalism. She points out in “Arts of the Possible,” “Capitalism lost no time in rearranging itself around this phenomenon called ‘feminism,’ bringing some women closer to centers of power while extruding most others at an accelerating rate… We are learning that only a politics of the whole society can resist such assimilation.”

This quotation speaks to tokenism, a concept with which Rich was well acquainted as a token “smart girl” in the 1930s and 1940s. Tokenism, though, pits the token against the group she came from, dis-identifying her so that she cannot or will not change the power structure. A token gives the illusion of change while maintaining the oppressive apparatus.

CIA Director Gina Haspel, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, and other white token women’s climb toward power and prestige have led to the murders of thousands of people around the world. It’s important that people of all genders cut through capitalism’s co-optation of feminism. We must fight daily for an intersectional feminist existence where no token is allowed to get away with murder.

Feminism, Rich reminds us, is about more than simply filling a seat. She knew that when one is put into a role of authority, it’s important to dissent against oppressive power structures. As one example described in “Arts of the Possible,” Rich refused the prestigious National Medal for the Arts, questioning publically how a country incarcerating more people than anywhere else in the world could give medals to artists.

The lesbian continuum framework helps us think about how relating to one another authentically is, in many ways, policed and punished. Rich’s framework also helps us dream about the world we strive for. Her writing about patriarchy, racism, tokenism, and other social travesties implores us to acknowledge the parts we play in violence and greed. Her writing about feminist literary foremothers and “blood, bread, and poetry” (the original title of one of her prose collections) gives us another kind of map: one that helps us mobilize as feminists.

McKee head shot

Freesia McKee is author of the chapbook How Distant the City (Headmistress Press, 2017). Her words have appeared in cream city reviewThe Feminist WirePainted Bride QuarterlyGertrudeHuffington Post, and Sundress Press’s anthology Political Punch: Contemporary Poems on the Politics of Identity. Freesia lives in North Miami.

Episode 329: Blair Hurley!

Episode 329 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I chat with novelist Blair Hurley about our experiences in NYU’s MFA program, how to plot novels, religion, and how to really dress like a writer.

Blair Hurley


The Devoted Cover


Check out Brian Turner’s album, featuring recordings by his late wife, Ilyse Kusnetz.

Interplanetary Acoustic Team

Episode 329 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #238: The Boy Next Door


The Curator of Schlock #238 by Jeff Shuster

The Boy Next Door

Shouldn’t it be titled The Boy Next Store?

I want to make it clear that I never watched Star Trek: The Next Generation. That show is for nerds, and we don’t like nerds here at The Museum of Schlock. So while I didn’t watch TNG back in high school, I would often bully and torture poindexters that did. One day when I was giving one of these said poindexters a swirly, he recounted an episode of TNG to me. The crew of the Starship Enterprise discovered an Earthly casino on an alien planet complete with gamblers, cocktail waitresses, dealers, you name it.

TNG (1)

Turns out a bunch of aliens created the casino and filled it with characters from a pulp novel tiled Hotel Royale. A NASA astronaut had it in his possession when he crash landed there with no way home. The aliens felt bad for him and created a little world for him based on the situations and characters from a terrible novel. The astronaut found it unbearable and died a miserable old man.

With my luck, I’d end up on alien planet based on 2015’s The Boy Next Door from director Rob Cohen.  Jennifer Lopez plays Claire Peterson, a high school Classics teacher (obviously).


Claire’s recently separated from her husband, Garrett (John Corbett of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame). She’s spending her summer holidays taking care of her son, Kevin (Ian Nelson) and hanging out with her best friend, Vicky Lansing (Kristen Chenoweth), who also happens to be the vice principal at the high school Claire teaches at. Vicky keeps going on about how Claire’s husband had an affair with his secretary in San Francisco and how she smelled like chocolate chip cookies. “Gives a whole new meaning to expression ‘San Francisco treat,’” Vicky says.


Speaking of treats, a hunky 19-year old stud named Noah Sandborn (Ryan Guzman) has moved next door to Claire. Noah befriends Claire’s son, fixes her garage door, and buys her a first edition of Homer’s The Odyssey. That’s quite a feat considering it was written around 800 BC! And who knew they had bound books back then. Noah’s great taste in literature is equally matched by his six-pack abs and winning smile. He calls her over to his place, something to do with how to properly defrost a chicken, and they spend the night making sweet love.


Claire regrets it the next morning. She tells Noah it was wrong and can never happen again.

Noah doesn’t accept this and turns into a violent stalker. Dum dum dum! He manages to turn Claire’s son against his father after instructing Kevin on how shoot an orange with a Beretta. Did I mention Noah is a student at Claire’s high school and is enrolled in her Classics class? After Claire keeps rejecting him, he posts photos of their sweet lovemaking all over her English classroom. Claire manages to take them down before her class starts, but knowing now that Noah has the whole thing recorded has her worried.

Vicky and Claire come up with a plan to steal the footage, but this just leads to Vicky getting kidnapped and stabbed to death. Noah then kidnaps her husband and son. He sets a barn on fire. I think Claire gouges Noah’s eye out with her thumb. Oh, and it turns out that Noah murdered his own father by messing with the brakes on his car. Yeah, not a world I would wish to be recreated for me by Extra Terrestrials. Unless they’d let me live in one of the sweet suburban houses with a Playstation 4 and pizza delivery.


I could think of worse ways to spend the rest of my life.

Jeffrey Shuster 3

Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Pensive Prowler #22: On Being Sick


, , , , , , , , ,

Pensive Prowler #22 by Dmetri Kakmi

On Being Sick

In 1926 Virginia Woolf asked why illness was not one of the great literary subjects, alongside war and love. Of course, she was howled down by critics who accused her of being silly and trite. But Woolf has a point.

Virginia Woolf

Maurice Beck And Helen MacGregor, Portrait of Virginia Woolf, 1925.

We all get sick. We are all laid low by cold, a broken leg or worse at some point. We know the wastes to which illness can take us, the deserts traversed. How isolating and debilitating pain can be. How terrifying, immobilising. How the spirits plunge to new depths. You really do drift off and feel as if you’ve stopped being part of human continuance. You feel as if you will never be well again and when you are well again you can hardly believe you had been to that far-off country. So close to death’s door.

So why not write about it?

Possibly because illness is perceived as passive and fiction (let’s stick to that for the time being) is an active progression from one point to the next. Even so, you’d think an innovative mind can turn the act of lying in bed, sick, into an active journey to the interior.

On the other hand we have to face the fact that when we are in rude health, we don’t want to think about illness. We want to forget it exists.

Things have moved on since Woolf wrote On Being Ill in 1926. In fact, they were on the right track all along and maybe Woolf was making a bigger point.

Anton Chekhov published his medical stories before the most famous member of the Bloomsbury group pioneered the modernist novel. Another Russian, Mikhail Bulgakov, wrote A Country Doctor’s Notebook the year before Woolf put in her two cents. Much later there was William Carlos Williams, the poet, with his The Doctor Stories, and John Berger with A Fortunate Man. For me, though, Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar is possibly the most famous offering to the genre, if I can call it that.

The Bell Jar.png

And we can’t go past Oliver Sacks’ important contributions to the field. Before all of them, however, there was Galen, the Greek physician and philosopher. I’m irritated by Susan Sontag so I’m not going to mention her book Illness as Metaphor. Damn, just did!

Still, Woolf is right. To this day if someone is asked to outline two or three enduring literary themes, they won’t put up their hand and go, “Illness!”

As you can tell, being sick has been on my mind lately. I’ve suffered from migraine most of my life. It’s been playing up lately and no amount of pill popping makes it go away. To add to my woes I have high cholesterol and now it seems I’m suffering side effects from the tablets I take to counteract its effects: nausea, unusual tiredness, itchy skin, memory loss, stiff and painful joints, unending thirst…

What gets me is this: how can pharmaceutical companies release medication knowing there are detrimental side effects? No one told me when I went on Crestor that my memory will go. Nor was I told that I will be shuffling around my home like an eighty-five year old because my joints seized up. I found out online.

What else are we putting in our bodies on a daily basis because we trust the manufacturer? Think of the chemicals in food, drink and water. We’re told chemicals are present in safe amounts and will cause no harm. But is this true? What are the long-term effects? What aren’t they telling us? How else can we account for cancers and the rise in food allergies in ‘developed nations’?

Why trust a faceless manufacturer whose one aim is profit? Government regulations mean nothing when politicians are in the pockets of corporations.

Let’s not forget in Victorian and Edwardian England, bakers adulterated bread with alum, which caused all sorts of gut problems, especially for children. Boracic acid was put in milk, with similar deadly results. Household cleaning products contained carbolic acid. Radium was put in toothpaste and chocolate. Of course people couldn’t understand why they were dropping off like bees. Now we look back and shake our heads. My bet is heads will shake over our folly in a hundred years’ time.

People will go, “What were they thinking?”

We didn’t think. We blindly trusted.

Illness strikes at the core because it’s a harbinger of mortality. It makes us vulnerable. It makes us question who we think we are and it reminds us that one day we will be dust. The body is not immortal. It’s a finite mechanism. Nor is it invulnerable, no matter how well we eat and how much we exercise. It will last however long it lasts. Why shorten its stay on earth by trusting multinational food and beverage companies that sure as hell ain’t gonna tell you the truth about their product?

If you don’t care either way, you will at least have plenty of books about illness to read as you drift off on your inflatable plastic mattress. And who knows? As you draw your last chemical intake, you might concede that illness is a vital literary topic.

Dmetri Kakmi

Dmetri Kakmi (Episode 158) is a writer and editor based in Melbourne, Australia. The memoir Mother Land was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards in Australia; and is published in England and Turkey. His essays and short stories appear in anthologies and journals. You can find out more about him here.

Episode 328: Dale Lucas!


, , , , ,

Episode 328 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I interview Dale Lucas, the author of the Fifth Ward and Doc Voodoo series of novels about exploring ethics in long-form narrative, world-building (and when to stop), how to keep writing the novel in maddening isolation, and other stuff, too.


Books Discussed

Fifth Ward Friendly FireFirst-Watch-cover-768x1148Doc Voodoo CrossfireDoc Voodoo Aces and EightsDale Lucas No Surrender


Check out Dale’s essay about having Simon Vance perform the audiobook of his novel, The Fifth Ward: First Watch.

Episode 328 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #237: Unsane

The Curator of Schlock #237 by Jefff Shuster


I’m not Unsane!

Do you remember Dawson’s Creek? It was the brainchild of Kevin Williamson, the screenwriter of the Scream series of horror movies. It centers around the life of teenager Dawson Leery (James Vanderbeek), an aspiring filmmaker who hopes to be the next Steven Spielberg.

Dawson (1)

At some point in the series, the young man becomes embarrassed by his obsession with director Steven Spielberg and declares that he is now a Steven Soderbergh fan.

I’m not sure where I was going with this.

Oh yeah.

Tonight’s movie is 2018’s Unsane from director Steven Soderbergh.


It doesn’t star James Vanderbeek.

The movie centers around a woman named Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy). She works a cubical job for some sort of banking institution. One of the early scenes shows her yelling at a customer over the phone. At night, she meets a Tinder date and informs him that the night will go the way he wants it to as long as he doesn’t contact her ever again. They start getting physical back at her place, but Sawyer then freaks out and locks herself in her bathroom. We later learn that Sawyer had a stalker where she lived back East.

There’s a scene where Matt Damon comes tells her all the things she needs to do to avoid being stalked. She can’t be on Facebook even if she sets the privacy settings. She also has to install black bars over her windows. I’m not sure if Matt Damon is playing a character or if this is just a side job of his. Maybe in lieu of pay on the last Jason Bourne movie, he got the Jason Bourne action figure rights.

According to Wikipedia, Sawyer is a “troubled woman.” She decides to seek out therapy at a mental health facility named Highland Creek. Sawyer tells a counselor there that she’s thought about suicide in the past. She fills out some paperwork, hoping to see the counselor on a weekly basis, and is promptly committed to Highland Creek. She calls the police with her one phone call, but the police never show.


She’s then shoved in a dormitory with the other guests of the facility, including a patient named Violet (Juno Temple) whose idea of a funny joke is throwing used tampons at Sawyer.

Unsane3 (1)

It’s not long before Sawyer freaks out, starts banging on the windows to the alert the orderlies, strikes one of the orderlies in the face, and is promptly sedated. A fellow patient named Nate (Jay Pharoah) tells Sawyer that it’s all a scam, that Highland Creek commits people of sound mind just to get their insurance money. Mental health is a business like any other and Highland Creek needs customers. All Sawyer has to do is play it cool and she should be released in about a week. And then her stalker (Joshua Leonard) gets hired as one of the orderlies.


Or is it all in her head? Maybe Sawyer is unsane after all.

You see. Spellcheck didn’t okay the word unsane. It’s not a real word. Does Soderbergh think he’s above the King’s English?

Jeffrey Shuster 1

Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Episode 327: Adrian Todd Zuniga!

Episode 327 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I interview Adrian Todd Zuniga, the host of Literary Death Match, about how to plot a novel, and how he plotted his novel, Collision Theory.

Adrian Todd Zuniga


Collision Theory.png


Check out my previous convo with Adrian back on Episode 190.

Episode 327 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.