When Sandy Jeffs was diagnosed with schizophrenia it was not the end of the world, in fact it was actually the start of her writing career. Yet her aspirations to write started in high school when she was introduced to TS Elliott. It fuelled a dream that she now lives.
“When I went crazy at 23 and became diagnosed with schizophrenia I began documenting my madness in poetry,” says Sandy.
“It made me still feel alive and made me feel worthwhile. Then when I was first published at 40 that gave me the impetus to keep going.”
Sandy’s first book, Poems from the Madhouse was published in 1993 and immediately begun winning awards. To date it has sold 6,000 copies and keeps selling.
At the time her poetry was unique to the Australian literary landscape because no on had published work inspired by mental illness before. So Sandy kept going.
“Writing is exciting,” adds Sandy enthusiastically. “To build a poem from nothing, the first line, metaphor and image. It gives you live, it is life affirming.
“It’s a wonderful experience to watch the poem come forth. It hasn’t cured my madness, but poetry is my purpose and meaning and validation because it is something I can do. And I am validated because people keep publishing me.”
Book seven Chiaroscuro and book eight The Mad Poets Team Party were published just last week.
“I call myself a mad woman, a lunatic, crazy I use those words before someone uses them against me,” she explains.
“It is so I have those labels and you can’t use them against me – I get in first. I’m celebrating those labels and saying I am not a monster I have something to say.”
Access2Arts and mindshare are brought Sandy Jeffs to Adelaide in June 2015 to launch the 2015 mindshare poetry awards and to present a series of workshops for writers with a lived experience of mental illness.