Cynthia Atkins, lecturer in Roanoke’s English department, publishes new book of poetry entitled “Psyche’s Weathers”

The 52-poem collection is split into four sections, with each one representing a season of the year.

Cynthia Atkins, lecturer in Roanoke's English department, recently published a book of poetry entitled "Psyche's Weathers," which is a collection of poems that all derive from a common theme of weather. The book was published by WordTech Communications in 2007.

The 52-poem collection is split into four sections, with each one representing a season of the year. The book uses weather as a metaphor to explore various mental and psychological states of the soul or psyche. Atkins said that weather is a great metaphor for the ever changing "storms" in our souls.

"From a very young age, I had associated the weather with mood, as my father was bi-polar," Atkins said. "His mood swings cycles with his 'manic' states in the winter and the 'depressive' states in the summer, so I think that is where it started for me, as the weather and the season became the landscape for human mental temperaments."

Atkins found inspiration when writing the collection through jazz music, blues music, paintings and the weather. Calendars also influenced her in the creation of the collection, and she used each month as a sort of persona or character.

"I gathered images that, for me, represented that month or season and the various associations and contexts we have without moods and the weather," Atkins said.

Atkins has always had an interest in mental illness and she used this curiosity to fill her education on the human psyche. More specifically, Atkins is interested in when the mind goes awry and if artists are more prone to mental disease. She often has questioned if mental illness and the creative mind are one in the same.

"There is an amazing and irrefutable lineage of artists who have had bouts with mental illness, and I think it would be illuminating to understand why," Atkins said.

However, what Atkins stresses most in her writing and classes is how the mentally ill are marginalized and how this categorization negatively affects the perception society has on the mentally unstable.

"I think mental illness is still a very taboo and confusing subject in our culture, and I think we need to have more dialogue and debates about these issues that we have swept under the rug in the past," Atkins said.

Atkins' hope for "Psyche's Weathers" is that it will help to open up dialogue about society's perception of the mentally ill.

"[I am] using language people think about, what makes us tick, as well as what makes us tock," Atkins said. "The human mind is truly a mystery and a wonder, and I hope to keep exploring it in poems, people and art."

Released: March 28, 2008