Alanna McArdle


Voice is an extract from a longer text that comprises five parts of poetry, lyric essays, and prose-poetry. The text uses the lyric ‘I’ and considers the radical possibilities of its application in the interrogation of trauma and selfhood, and the conflict between self-definition and medical/institutional definition.Voice blurs and interrogates the generic and formal distinctions of poetry and life writing to pose questions of how writer and speaker interconnect, and to explode arbitrary literary conventions which themselves limit and oppress in their rigidity of definition. Voice is both narrative and lyrical, tracking part of my experience as a person with Bipolar Disorder inside and outside of medical institutions.The text explores the possibility of recalibrating or reclaiming the oppressive syntax of medicine, and asks how the self is transformed through not just the experience of illness, but also illness’s subsequent side effect of institutionalisation, and the intersections of other “othered” and marginalised identities and experiences within this discursive categorisation.Voice draws on and re-appropriates the derisive and misogynistic label of “confessional writing” and confronts the historical nexus of discriminations that has led to what psychiatrist and author Phyllis Chesler calls “the female career as psychiatric patient.”


Author Biography

Alanna McArdle, Goldsmiths, University of London

I am an MA Creative and Life Writing student at Goldsmiths, University of London. I have a focus on poetry, and my MA portfolio comprises a cross genre text meditating on trauma and the self. I have had poetry published in print and online in Shabby Doll House, Prelude Magazine, Poems in Which, For Every Year, and The Chapess, among others, and I was recently included in episode three of the podcast Poets In Bed. My non-fiction and journalism has featured in print and online in Pitchfork, Crack Magazine, The NME, The Talkhouse, Noisey, and Broadly, among others. My flash fiction has been published online at Bluestockings Magazine, and my short story 'Butter' was shortlisted for the 2018 Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize. My debut poetry pamphlet Split Ends is forthcoming this year from Makina Books.


  1. Ashworth, Jenn, Notes Made While Falling (London: Goldsmiths Press, 2019)
  2. Berry, Emily, Stranger, Baby (London: Faber & Faber, 2017)
  3. Butler, Judith, ‘How Can I Deny That These Hands and This Body Are Mine?’, Qui Parle, 11.1 (1997), 1–20
  4. Carson, Anne, Norma Jeane Baker of Troy (London: Oberon Books, 2019)
  5. Chesler, Phyllis, Women and Madness (Chicago, Ill.: Chicago Review Press, 2018)
  6. Collins, Sophie, small white monkeys (London: Book Works, 2018)
  7. Collins, Sophie, Who Is Mary Sue? (London: Faber & Faber, 2018)
  8. Forrest-Thomson, Veronica, Poetic Artifice (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1978)
  9. Hill, Selima, The Accumulation of Small Acts of Kindness (London: Chatto & Windus, 1989)
  10. Hill, Selima, Bunny (Hexham: Bloodaxe Books, 2001)
  11. Laing, R. D., The Divided Self (London: Penguin Classics, 2010)
  12. Riley, Denise, The Words of Selves: Identification, Solidarity, Irony (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2000)
  13. Sexton, Anne, The Complete Poems (Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin, 1999)
  14. Zambreno, Kate, Book of Mutter (New York, NY: Semiotext(e), 2017)