Books

Eloise Klein Healy learning language again

eloise-healy.mug.jpgIllness was the reason that Eloise Klein Healy resigned last year after just nine months as the city's first poet laureate. She had encephalitis, a disease which forced her into the intensive care unit and stripped her for awhile of coherent language. The poet and teacher is learning to put words and thoughts together again, says Patt Morrison in a story in the Times:

Healy is in intense therapy, which involves many things designed to treat the aphasia symptoms of her illness. There are vocabulary flashcards, dancing, listening to music (mostly the Beatles). Household objects are labeled with Post-Its: "oven" and "pantry." The fact that Healy is left-handed, Rooney explained, somehow accelerates the relearning of speech.


The striking thing is how swiftly and confidently she still talks. When she can't think of a word, she drops in a different one. And she breezily makes up words, saying her illness left her "all scrooped up."

Kate Gale, managing editor of Red Hen Press, which publishes Healy's work, explains it this way: "She understands what we're talking about but her language feels very scissored, like whole sentences got scrunched up. It is very Gertrude Stein. Now, when I have conversations with her, the main way she has of expressing herself is as a poet. This is her core language."

Mayor Eric Garcetti is looking to appoint a new poet laureate.


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