The pages of Igor in Therapy are a joy to inhabit. M.K. Garrison’s startling debut invites us to eavesdrop on a performance of the talking cure between Igor, a monster-movie Resurrection Man, and his therapist. A lyric and fractured almost-transcript, Garrison’s book length poem is preoccupied with making. Synthesized fruit and phosphorescent ferns, test-tube hounds and intoxicated folk songs: what makes us want to create our self, the lovely sketches of inside-out monsters, a relationship, or a child? With both humor and pathos, Garrison’s remarkable poem lets us revel in language, in what is left unsaid in the white space between us, in how flawed we are next to the things we bring into being. An electrical-organic celebration of discovery and dizzying vapors, Igor in Therapy is a book we can pick-up with the intention of being changed.
Colin Cheney, Author of Here Be Monsters
Here, in an extension of Mary Shelley’s most famous novel, spun out in Myah Garrison’s brilliantly haunting and dark verse and accompanied by Sarah Vosmus’s mood-enhancing pen and ink illustrations, Igor tells his side of the monster-and-doctor story through the lens of his therapist. Says Igor from the couch,
Garrison’s debut, Igor in Therapy, is an instant classic. In fact, Frankenstein no longer seems complete without Igor’s story, breathed over steaming mugs of tea in multiple therapy sessions, shared through Garrison’s gorgeous lines:
Igor in Therapy should be taught alongside the gothic tale in every English language, literature, and writing classroom around the world.
Molly McGrath, The Telling Room and Pink Eraser Press
“Since Fate doused my dreams in formaldehyde—Let me never be a baker, a tailor, a lawyer, an engineer, a painter, nothing in the world but discovery and dizzying vapours.”
“I am plagued by odd associations; I see our creation in a peony’s curving petals, color contrast of a shell on sand, equal steps of a pinecone, and great mountains carved into star-strung sky . . . How flawed the Doctor and I are, how rough and laughable next to this thing we have wrought. We are as snakes stealing angels; dragging heaven backwards, like a sheet, to walk in squalor beside us. I am too full of greed to wish this being back into non existence, but I cannot imagine we deserve it.”
READING M. K. GARRISON’S
IGOR IN THERAPY, AND THINKING ABOUT HANDKE
It is fitting for the youth of a nation to provide the freshest metaphor for citizenship. M. K. Garrison’s metaphor is a teenager’s therapy sessions and the local world around them.
I admit I was slow to recognize the crisis. Starting in the mid-‘80s, my really brilliant students were in and on, therapy and medications. “The best minds of [this] generation” were diagnosed. Drugs were no longer Romantic but prescribed. There seemed no longer a point to instructing anxious undergraduates about the agon among the Confessional poets. Now I am retired; my daughter, who was born in 2005, has been certified ADHD. She is more intuitively creative than the old man is. She draws portraits at will, without needing to refer to an image. She can listen to a song one time and memorize it, lyrics and tune. She cannot know how well she writes. The teen Cambodian refugees A.V. So memorializes in stories are not more completely alienated in America than this white girl entering a rural high school. The handbook her mother and I follow for her public school accommodations, “The Complete IEP/504 Guide,” runs to 38 pages before the appendices.
The great strength of Garrison’s piece is its dramatic build, in tense slugs of poetry. (She dispenses with the usual accumulation of fill, sound and active verbs, for her book-length poem.) Her adroit sense of ways meaning is achieved through the placement of these blocks within three “acts” provides the discipline for her to make art. Her poems’ lines are often on the order of stage directions or intimations of poetry, like:
Igor, stretched like a chalk-outline
over the floor. I gaze down from my desk.
The doctor stands to side,
thanks me. I nod,
gesture to window,
thumb a line
along my spinal-cord.
We three sit down to talk.
No mistaking, Igor’s role is memorable. And the doctor’s confession provides real drama.
The doctor pushes
a hand into Igor’s shoulder.
confesses ‘S-sorry, You are no…
no near-drained lab assistant,
come to cut corners,
ogle bottled eyes.
You are more than half of ev-v-very
Experiment I have d-done, every action I take.’
In fact, it is a play, Peter Handke’s Kaspar, that provides a motive for my keen appreciation of Igor In Therapy. Handke claims his so-called “speak-ins” of the ‘60s are “autonomous prologues to the old plays. They do not want to revolutionize, but to make aware.” Further, he proposes: “The words that make up the speak-ins give no picture of the world but a concept of it.” According to legend (and the 19th-century press corps), Kaspar Hauser appears without prelude (he claims to have spent his youth in a windowless cell) on the streets (1828 Nuremberg). At first, Kaspar can only manage to reply “Horse! Horse!” or “Don’t know” to the authority’s cross-questioning. Kaspar’s alienation from the world makes him poetic, free to invent himself. Handke, famously, dramatizes the fuckedupedness of post-war Germans in the figure of the transformative boy from nowhere become contemporary fake news; whereas Garrison lets Igor, the doctors, and the therapy sessions do the critiquing of our present winless conflict, the culture wars. Her poem is mature beyond her fears. She seems a decade too young to have written this, but it could only have been written by a woman her age. At 71, I have only recently reconciled with the productions of my youth. To the contrary, she has been born in full armor from the head of Ingeborg Bachmann.
August 12, 2021
M. K. Garrison is a poet and short story author living in Southern Maine. Her work has appeared in several local magazines including The Portland Press Herald, Gen Z, and the Maine Women's Magazine. She is a recent graduate of Maine Coast Waldorf School and will be attending Bennington College where she hopes to continue her studies in both prose and verse. M. K. Garrison lives with her parents, two dogs, a cat, six chickens, a goose, and a goat, all of whom are very supportive except, perhaps, the goose.
Sarah Vosmus received an MFA in printmaking from the University of New Mexico, she took her first printmaking class while studying abroad in NSW, Australia. She is a member of Circling the Square Fine Art Press and Co-Owner of a small letterpress shop. Sarah Vosmus is currently an adjunct lecturer at the University of Maine in Augusta, and exhibits her work nationally and internationally.