The Green Bell: a memoir of love, madness and poetry by Paula Keogh (Affirm Press)
This book offers a vivid love story that begins in the stark setting of a psychiatric ward in a Canberra hospital. Writing with courage, clarity and creativity, Paula Keogh explores madness and human limitations through her life-changing relationship to the poet Michael Dransfield. Her great achievement is to show us madness in a way that is engaging and insightful, a feat she accomplishes without glorifying or downplaying her breakdowns.
The setting is the counter-culture scene of 1972, when Canberra was ‘Too new to have settled into the earth, too geometrical to have emerged from it.’ The ‘green bell’ is a willow near the hospital under which Keogh and Dransfield deepen their intimacy through inspired conversation. Her memoir shifts and turns, as Keogh is lifted by love, then confronted with Dransfield’s attraction to heroin and untimely death, after which she finds strength without him.