By Rick McVicar
Brain health recovery comes in many surprising forms, sometimes with words that stand out from the noise of busy crowds.
Akron, Ohio poet Walter Delbridge is awaiting the publication of his book, Comeback Evolution: Selected Works of Walter K. Delbridge, edited by Kate Tucker. It is to be published by the University of Akron Press with a release date of May 15.
The poet began his adult life as a promising scholar, studying at Morehouse College in Atlanta during the school year. He spent his summers studying at Harvard and Yale on scholarship. Walter said in an interview he even received an acceptance letter to attend Sorbonne, a university in Paris, France.
However, the promise of a career ended abruptly in 1969 when Walter received another letter, this time from the draft board. The Vietnam War was raging at the time.
“I said if I go there I won’t be coming back,” Walter noted.
He was given a pen and paper test at his induction. Afterward, a man came to him and said, “Son, I’m going to send you to someone who can help you,” Walter said.
That someone turned out to be a psychiatrist, who would give Walter a letter saying he was being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Not long after that, Walter found himself taken to the Fallsview Psychiatric Hospital near his hometown of Akron.
“It divided my life in half,” Walter said.
The hospital staff was made up of doctors and nurses from around the world. Fortunately, a doctor from Lithuania saw Walter’s potential. He helped Walter get assistance from the Ohio Bureau of Vocational Services so he could attend the University of Akron.
Walter finished his degree there, with only one setback when he took an abnormal psychology course.
“I kept arguing with the professor about the meaning of schizophrenia,” Walter said.
He received a C in the class and was able to earn his degree.
His life took a turn again in 1979 when he was listening to records of jazz greats Charles Mingus and John Coltrane. Walter said he entered a “special state.”
“I felt lighter in the head. I felt the writing thing was coming on,” Walter noted.
That state of mind lasted 8 to 12 hours and resulted in more than 130 pages of poetry being written. Some of those poems were published in 2017 by Schizophrenia Bulletin with the title, “Isolation and Intellect,” edited by Kate Tucker.
Besides editing Delbridge’s work, Tucker is working on a documentary of Delbridge’s life to be titled, “Tell It Like It Is.” In addition to filming documentaries, Tucker also sings, writes songs and produces music videos.