Q&A: A Roller Coaster in Rhyme

One might say that Maggie Robbins' novel Suzy Zeus Gets Organized is pure poetry. The story of a promiscuous, manic-depressive bombshell is smart and witty. It is also written in stanzas of six perfectly rhyming lines. Robbins, an art therapist and collage artist, wrote the semi-autobiographical poems over a period of 20 years, during which she conqered her own bipolar depression.

Who is Suzy?
I first wrote about her in college for a poetry reading. I wanted something different from what anyone else might have written. I would read first, then see who wanted to follow after me after I talked about a girl breaking windows and her boyfriend peeing out of a window.

Do people who have been mentally ill make better therapists?
No, but you have more background. If you're trying to describe what mania is like and a therapist just says, "Yes, dear, here's your lithium, please take it," it's so alienating.

Do your patients provide material?
Not at all. I started private practice after I finished the book. I worry that if they read the book they might think it's them, but it's really not. It's only me.

Barbie surfaces in the book and in your artwork.
I actually have a little career related to Barbie. It started after I was walking in Queens and overheard some say, "That girl has a Barbie fetish." I had just seen African fetishes at the Met. They are wooden animal forms decorated with bits of metal or buttons. I had this image of Barbie. So I got a Barbie, found nails and pins, and filled her up. She looked vanquished. That piece of art got picked up by the author of Forever Barbie. Mattel hated it.

-Willow Lawson, Psychology Today