Roller Coaster in Rhyme

Art therapist Maggie Robbins gives us pure poetry in her new novel "Suzy Zeus Gets Organized." She also chats about bipolar disorder, art therapy and more.

By Willow Lawson, published on March 1, 2005 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

One might say that Maggie Robbins' novel Suzy Zeus Gets Organized is pure poetry. The story of a promiscuous, manic-depressive bombshell is smart and witty. It is also written in stanzas of six perfectly rhyming lines. Robbins, an art therapist and collage artist, wrote the semi-autobiographical poems over a period of 20 years, during which she conquered her own bipolar depression.

Who is Suzy?

I first wrote about her in college for a poetry reading. I wanted something different from what anyone else might have written. I would read first, then see who wanted to follow me after I talked about a girl breaking windows and her boyfriend peeing out of a window.

Do people who have been mentally ill make better therapists?

No, but you have more background. If you're trying to describe what mania is like and a therapist just says, "Yes, dear, here's your lithium, please take it," it's so alienating.

Do your patients provide material?

Not at all. I started private practice after I finished the book. I worry that if they read the book they might think it's them, but it's really not. It's only me.

Barbie surfaces in the book and in your artwork.

I actually have a little career related to Barbie. It started after I was walking in Queens and overheard someone say, "That girl has a real Barbie fetish." I had just seen African fetishes at the Met. They are wooden animal forms decorated with bits of metal or buttons. I had this image of Barbie. So I got a Barbie, found nails and pins, and filled her up. She looked vanquished. That piece of art got picked up by the author of Forever Barbie. Mattel hated it.