“Hysterical water” is a collection of poems that range from fierce to funny, from feminist poems to prose poems and essays that use poems woven throughout. These poems are all linked by threads associated with motherhood and so-called female “hysteria”. Poet Hannah Baker Saltmarsh disrupts the historical pseudo-diagnostic term of hysteria both as a way to contain and silence women and as a fad that has eerily freed women to act outside the bounds of societal norms.
The poems in this book challenge how creativity, maternal thought, sexuality, and affect have been dismissed as hysterical. Saltmarsh recovers the word hysteria, believing that female poets might celebrate incongruous emotional experiences. She draws and reconstructs a plethora of source materials to give shape not only to the maternal body but also to a hysterical textual body. Saltmarsh re-examines selective silence and speech in everyday crises, engages in eloquent “anticommunication” through strange symbols and gestures, and indulges in absurd dream speech, to convey powerful themes in the collection of poems “Hysterical Water “.