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The Pest Maiden: A Story of Lobotomy, Poems by Penelope Scambly Schott

The Pest Maiden: A Story of Lobotomy by Penelope Scambly Schott is a harrowing book-length narrative about a woman’s experience with mental illness and its inhumane treatment through lobotomy. Combining lyric recollection and chilling, documentary realism, the poems become a chorus of voices  speaking against a dark period of twentieth-century medicine.

Sample Poems by Penelope Schott


“Haunting, fast paced and written with a finely tuned ear for the obsessive language of her subject, Schott tells of a family member’s steep decline into the limbo of mental institutions. Enlivened with a mix of letters, reports and multi-cultural references to madness, her work is also a powerful indictment of lobotomy, a surgical plague that swept this country at mid-twentieth century. The book deserves a wide audience.”—Colette Inez

“Penelope Scambly Schott fuses both the mundane and the visionary, the physiological and the spiritual. Her poems plumbing the world of madness—the beating heart of the book—are fearlessly, flawlessly done. An American Indian story-teller once said, ‘Stories are our escorts.’ This whole sequence of poems creates a story that both sears and moves the reader, carrying us through an experience that we might otherwise be unable to bear. Pest Maiden is a stunning poetic achievement.”—Kathryn Stripling Byer

“Penelope Scambly Schott’s The Pest Maiden approaches a dark topic and examines it with clinical accuracy and astounding grace. It is a beautiful, moving work that peers into the soul, communicates with the heart, and brings a lump to the throat.”—Christine Johnson, webmaster, www.psychosurgery.org

“Having practiced neurology for 30 years, I have been around long enough to have seen many treatment modalities touted as safe and effective, only later to be ineffective and harmful. One wonders whether 50 years from now our current practices will be considered barbaric and primitive.... I can see that I should start reading more poetry and fewer neurology journals.”—Reed C. Wilson, M.D.

Penelope Scambly  Schott, a long-time New Jersey poet, now lives in Portland, Oregon, returning for Cool Women readings. She is known for an acclaimed novel, three poetry chapbooks, and her full-length collection, The Perfect Mother.  Her book-length narrative poem, Penelope: The Story of the Half-Scalped Woman was granted broad critical acclaim.  She has received four NJSCA poetry fellowships, and has received a senior fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center and a Dodge Fellowship to the Vermont Studio Center.  Her chapbook, Almost Learning to Live in This World, was published  by Pudding House Press. 

ISBN 1932339477, 132 pages, $17.00

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