The Chemical Life
An exploration of mental illness and addiction.
Praised for his darkly psychological accounts of extreme experiences, Jim Johnstone’s fifth book of poems explores his most difficult terrain to date: mental illness and addiction. Like Coleridge’s opium dreams, Johnstone’s narratives in The Chemical Life are hallucinatory, coloured by his use of both prescription and recreational drugs. Returning often to the notion of rival realities—“in everything, there is a second state”—Johnstone is brilliantly disruptive and disorientating; a poet whose savagely austere forms, electrically precise images and keyed-up rhythms reveal an obsession with the mind-altering properties of language itself.