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The poetic justice of growing old and letting go in “The Analyst”

“It’s always backwards in analysis, isn’t it?,” poet Molly Peacock asks in her new collection.

The Analyst by Molly Peacock is a book of poetry that explores the evolution of relationships as people grow older over time, and how these emotions can be captured and understood through the process of creative license. The anthology of poems is based on the author’s relationship with her therapist, Joan Workman Stein, who she met in New York when she was a young woman and stayed in contact with for several years. Stein suffers a stroke and Peacock, once the patient, becomes a caregiver in helping her therapist recover.

The book is separated into four parts, Part One: The Pottery Jar; Part Two: The Hours; Part Three: Ruby Roses, Kiss Goodbye; and Part Four: Whisper of Liberty. Each section follows the two friends through the initial shock of having a loved one experience a stroke, helping them recover, letting go of their lost capacities and accepting their new self. Peacock helps Stein to rediscover her lost love of art, and it ultimately becomes the tool that brings her back to life.

Peacock ultimately realizes that Stein helping her all of those years prepared her to return the favour when her therapist reaches old age and needs someone to be there. In the final poem, “Mandala in the Making”, she states, “Only when something’s over can its shape materialize,” thus showing that life is a series of evolutionary cycles repeating themselves throughout time. The Analyst uses a deeply creative means to show how people can never know quite what certain events their lives truly mean until they have passed.

The set of poems employs subtle references and the author’s own experiences to lead the reader down a path of understanding long-term relationships and how they change as people grow older. Oftentimes, poetry seeks to avoid the more disgusting facts of aging, and focuses instead on the beauty of youth and love. Peacock avoids this pattern and faces the gruesome realities that lie behind having a stroke and losing the capacity to be fully functional that is ultimately a result of aging. In “The Canning Jar”, it is almost hard to swallow the description of the dead rabbit in the St. Lawrence Market, but the reader is forced to contend with death and ultimately reconcile with it.

Overall, Peacock takes the mundane and turns it into art. Growing old is by no means special, but her changed relationship with her therapist puts her in a position to see how letting go of the old self is always a singularly unique and beautiful experience no matter how it happens or who it happens with. The journey of The Analyst becomes exceptional precisely because it turns the tragedy of a stroke into the miracle of rebirth when Stein embraces becoming an artist and let’s go of being a therapist.

This book of poems is a great read, especially for someone looking to reconcile with an aging loved one. Peacock engages with the trauma of watching her friend be affected by a stroke and the reader can feel her desperation and eventual acceptance. Take a chance on The Analyst and it will leave you wondering which relationships will change and evolve over time and how each person will meet their own limitations of mortality.

Woman of the Week: Caitlin Dacey

Caitlin Dacey is not only a kick-ass musician, she also helps young girls in Toronto pursue their own dreams of being rock n’ roll queens. Chatting with the quasi punk and rock n’ roll singer/ musician, it becomes clear that she is a relaxed, extremely intelligent, and professional young woman who is a role model younger women in the world of music.  “It is weird looking at other bands where women aren’t very active. That is why Girl’s Rock Camp is so important to me. It is hard that there is such a disparity in the numbers of women in bands.”

In her 20’s, Dacey began her first band, Bella Clava, with her bandmate Steve. She wished she had started earlier, but chalks it up to societal stereotypes that influences young women to not get involved in rock n roll. “I got into music from listening to it and enjoying it. I never saw myself in a band. As a woman I didn’t know that was possible,” Dacey says.

Despite Dacey’s later start as a musician, she became the lead singer and guitarist with Bella Clava and toured the country. She later joined punk band Public Animal, playing keyboards and vocals with the local punk icon, Ian Burton. She also plays in an all-girls band called Overnight. Dacey is a natural singer with a smoky powerful voice and the sassy demeanour of a rock n’ roll queen, yet carries herself well with an honest and humble disposition.

Caitlin Dacey. Photo by Nic Pouliot.
Caitlin Dacey. Photo by Nic Pouliot.

Dacey is a high school teacher by day. She teaches biology, French, and most recently, audio production. Playing in three bands and teaching full-time, Dacey is definitely busy, but finds she needs both the kids and music to lead a happy life. “I did take a year off of teaching, but I was doing music full-time. I missed teaching and my students,” Dacey says. “It is how I need to live. I need to have different things on the go. The more active I am, the more productive I am.”

Dacey combines her passion of teaching and music by volunteering at Girl’s Rock camp Toronto, a non-profit organization that runs camps, workshops, and an after-school rock party. The initiative is run by female musicians who teach young girls how to make a band, choose a name and logo, and learn the musical instruments. The teachers help the girls to problem solve and work together and then there is a performance at the end of the camp.

Dacey says she is band camp coach and also helps with guitar. She teaches a group of five or six girls and helps them make a band. “There is a lot of emphasis on conflict resolution and how to navigate differences in opinion. It is teaching me lots of tools to apply in my own band,” Dacey says. “The kids teach you how to be positive. It re-inspires me to play music.” The fact that there are initiatives that exist such as Girl’s Rock Camp reflects that there is increasingly more support for girls who want to be musicians.”

Dacey points out that women are often placed in competition with each other, and it is initiatives like Girls Rock Camp that help to remove these barriers. “I absolutely want to be supportive. Not every interaction with other women is going to be positive. You want especially people who are trying things for the first time to have that positive experience. You want them to see other women as a network and allies. Unfortunately we are taught that we are in competition with one another and that there is only space for one woman,” Dacey says. “Working with my students and rock camp and my own interests, and trying to live my life where I’m in control of what I’m doing makes me feel like I’m doing my part in a small way.”

Dacey is also an avid reader and is working her way through the complex and fascinating, Elegance of a Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. She also likes to go rollerblading while on tour so that she can actually see the towns and cities that her bands visit with a limited time scope. If you get a chance to see Dacey perform or have a daughter who has dreams of being a musician, Dacey is a true music inspiration with the classic grace of a true rock n’ roller.

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