Out of the Crazywoods


Out of the Crazywoods

Cheryl Savageau

American Indian Lives Series

264 pages


May 2020


$29.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

May 2020


$29.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

May 2020


$29.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Out of the Crazywoods is the riveting and insightful story of Abenaki poet Cheryl Savageau’s late-life diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Without sensationalizing, she takes the reader inside the experience of a rapid-cycling variant of the disorder, providing a lens through which to understand it and a road map for navigating the illness. The structure of her story—impressionistic, fragmented—is an embodiment of the bipolar experience and a way of perceiving the world.

Out of the Crazywoods takes the reader into the euphoria of mania as well as its ugly, agitated rage and into “the lying down of desire” that is depression. Savageau articulates the joy of being consort to a god and the terror of being chased by witchcraft, the sound of voices that are always chattering in your head, the smell of wet ashes that invades your home, the perception that people are moving in slow motion and death lurks at every turnpike, and the feeling of being loved by the universe and despised by everyone you’ve ever known.

Central to the journey out of the Crazywoods is the sensitive child who becomes a poet and writer who finds clarity in her art and a reason to heal in her grandchildren. Her journey reveals the stigma and the social, personal, and economic consequences of the illness but reminds us that the disease is not the person. Grounded in Abenaki culture, Savageau questions cultural definitions of madness and charts a path to recovery through a combination of medications, psychotherapy, and ceremony.


Author Bio

Cheryl Savageau teaches at Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College. She is the author of the poetry collections Home Country, Dirt Road Home, and Mother/Land. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation.  


"Out of the Crazywoods is a hopeful book. Prior versions of yourself may shatter, but you are not shattered."—Bruce Owens Grimm, Brevity

"Styled as a series of vignettes, the episodic structure of Out of the Crazywoods creates an enthralling narrative."—Haydee Marie Smith, Disability Studies Quarterly

“With lyrical language and powerful episodic storytelling Cheryl Savageau brings luminous clarity to her experience of navigating the Crazywoods. She draws us into an inner world, both mythic and mystifying, of being bipolar, which at times reflects the dynamic intricacy of New England’s recovering forestland but also illuminates the ongoing activity and struggle of alnôbawôgan, being and becoming human.”—Lisa Brooks, author of The Common Pot: The Recovery of Native Space in the Northeast

“Cheryl Savageau’s memoir Out of the Crazywoods maps the experience of ‘bipolar’ again and again—defining and redefining, remembering and remaking, etching and resketching the shape, substance, sensation, and sentiment of her experience of ‘being’ bipolar and coming to that diagnosis and recognition. . . . Savageau’s luminous prose ripples, soars, and shines with grounded honesty, some biting humor, and richly textured sensory detail (some quite synesthetic). This is a compelling work of complex embodiment, complicated relations (with self and other), and careful narrative. It demonstrates how one writes identity and, too, how identity can be (well) written.”—Brenda Jo Brueggemann, editor of Disability Studies Quarterly

“Abenaki poet and memoirist Cheryl Savageau’s stunning collection of braided vignettes leads us through the chaos many of us know, toward tenuous, hard-won places of compassion, joy, and possibility. Savageau writes, ‘I live on that edge between what is true, what is sacred and magical, and where madness begins.’ Yes, this memoir is disturbing, disruptive—and, reading it, we are stronger, heartened for this journey between spaces of identity, the cusps and edges of brilliance, becoming human.”—Deborah A. Miranda, author of Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir

Table of Contents

About This Book

Bagw and Tekw

Under the Crib

The Pivot Point

Learning to Speak

What It Is

Age Three—The Witch in the Bag




She’s Not Heavy, She’s My Sister

The Tarot

Tiger Butter


Age Seven—The Body Book


At the Welfare Office



Crazy Lady in Grad School

In Fourth Grade

What’s Happening?

Jungle Road



The Bad Mother

Exceptional Children

The Twirling Skirt

Crazy Talk I

The Death Turnpike

Life in the Fast Lane: Am I Paranoid, or Are They Really Out to Get Me?


Arthur Lloyd


The Bra Thing

I Am in Love with Rita Moreno

Crazy Talk II

Beautiful Doll

The Ugly Year

Krishna, My Love

Poetry for Breakfast


Teaching Castaneda

Losing Them

Meditation—The Barren Road

The Taster

Horse Dream I



Sunday Afternoon with Betty Grable

Islands of Sanity: Poetry

My Bookstore

The New House at Center Harbor

When You Can’t Keep a Job


Islands of Sanity: Grandsonso

Crazy Talk III

Getting Fat on Antidepressants

To Whom It May Concern:

Memere Stories: Sing á Memere

Sunday Dinners


Peach Cobbler

Falling in Love with Diane

Talk Doc: Julie

Grand Poobah

Land of Enchantment I

Stories and Storms

New York in Albuquerque


The Witch at the Wake

Land of Enchantment II

China Doll

My Special One

After Dropping Acid on a School Night


You Bet Your Life

Crazy Talk: Lonely

Eating Worms I

My Mother’s Side


Falling into Grace

A Paycheck Away

Seven Mice

Christmas with Tarot Cards


Citizens for Citizens

Wet Ashes

The Eighth Mouse

Good morning:

Memere Stories: Paint

Not Connect: Abilify Mania


Memere Stories: Talking

Talk Doc: Karen


Giving Myself to Beauty

The Green Quilt

Memere Stories: Howling

Eating Worms II

Greeley Park, Nashua—The Tree

Maura’s Bag

Talk Doc: The Real Work

Relearning the Habits of Childhood

Crying for Real

Horse Dream II

Math Games


Ambien: The Butterfly, Lock, and Key


Nearly Normal

Memere Stories: Baseball


What It Is For




Source Acknowledgments

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