by Mariah Hicks
It was the year of 1979 on a day that was normal to many. But for 33-year-old Walter Delbridge, it was pivotal. Under the smooth jazz of John Coltrane and Charles Mingus, Walter fell into a heightened mental state. His mind took him somewhere he didn’t know he could go.
From there, art came about.
Walter describes the day as an emotional trip.
“I felt a slight feeling, and into my mind came a few words. I started writing those words,” Walter said. “When I finished after eight hours of this spell, I had produced 133 pages of poetry.”
This work came to be known as “Isolation and Intellect.”
Walter Delbridge is a well-known poet who has dealt with the experiences of various diagnoses, such as schizophrenia, manic depressive psychosis, bipolar disorder, depressive disorder, anxiety-prone personality, and schizoaffective disorder depressive type.
His existence in the world is through writing, which has helped him live in a world that is often beyond his understanding. Words alone have powerfully shaped his experience and his narrative.
Walter’s childhood helped to shape his inspiration for writing. At 13 years old, he found his niche for pen and paper. He describes his younger self as someone who was deeply in touch with nature and the world, as someone who held a curiosity about life that prompted him to create and experiment.
Walter carried that curiosity well into his adulthood. The writing of “Isolation and Intellect” itself spurred his curiosity about the world he lived in. At the time, the poems were something more than Walter could understand.
“I had to grow up to my own manuscript,” he said. “It was like my consciousness was a 40-watt bulb, and as each year went by, the wattage increased, and then I had a deeper understanding of what I had written in that certain period.”
Sometime before Walter experienced his first breakdown, he was attending a high school where the student population was predominantly white. The world at the time was straining under the weight of the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, and racial inequality.
“Being caught in the middle of all these disturbances disturbed me, and I suffered through it,” Walter said. “I was broken in a lot of ways by the conflicts raging in society. I had to have mental health treatment, and that treatment over the years helped me integrate my real self from the spared, broken parts going in different directions.”
Walter described himself as having been a loner in his youth, something which contributed to his social distance as an adult. He found himself so affected by the harsh realities of everyday life that he divided himself from it.
“Most of my living was inward. Instead of translating all of my impulses and my desires outwards, I lived a more imaginative life within myself,” Walter said. “The insecure, broken person I was at that time was not my true self. That was the self that was battered and beaten by life.”
Living a reserved life took Walter through many emotional stages, something he describes as having been tainted by fear and anguish. The making of “Isolation and Intellect” opened him up to a completely different level of himself and a new way of living. Weeks after its creation, Walter touched up certain poems and had a secretary type up the manuscript. Because he couldn’t fully comprehend what he had written, Walter kept the manuscript to himself for years before sharing it with the world in 2016.
“The emotions that I didn’t fully express in everyday life came to me during that writing, and I found out over the years that I am more like that manuscript now than I was back then,” Walter said. “That poetry showed me the genesis of a new being.”
To this day, with Walter living in Akron, writing still plays a significant part in his life. From dealing with the emotions of human life, he has found a way to tap in and experience life intensely.
“My own writing seems to be a kind of response to delusion, sensation, conflict, periods of serenity, levels above the everyday stream of things,” Walter said. “All these things become a part of the verbal network of sketching out human life.”
Walter will be reading some of his work accompanied by a jazz band on October 25 at EJ Thomas Hall. He was requested by performing guest, Theron Brown, who will be showcasing his jazz trio as well.
Mariah Hicks is a recent graduate of Kent State University.
Photo used with permission from Kate Tucker, who is working on a film about Walter’s life called “Comeback Evolution.”