NOTE: SMC Community Ed has a more detailed story on student poet John Young in our monthly newsletter, Sound Bites. The following is an excerpt from that article with an additional poem not included in the Sound Bites article.

John Young poetry book

The thin line that often separates genius from madness, or bursts of brilliant creativity from severe depression, is an intriguing topic that has generated countless articles, essays and discussions over the years.

And it is a topic that has taken on new meaning to SMC Community Ed student John Young, a prolific writer whose world was turned upside down a year ago when he had a breakdown and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Young, who took Betzi Richardson’s poetry class last fall, recited two of his poems at last month’s Community Ed Open House to high praise from audience members

“This is the first time we had live poetry reading at our Open House, and John’s performance was powerful and yet surprisingly intimate,” said Alice Meyering, Program Coordinator of Community & Contract Education. “I think everyone in the audience was touched by the sincerity and the artistic depth of his work.”

john young-guitar

Young is unusual in that his diagnosis came late in life. He is 57, and most people are diagnosed at a younger age. In fact, his siblings and friends were shocked at the diagnosis and he himself had no idea he was bipolar.

He said over the years he has had manic episodes where he had huge bursts of energy and would get “massive amounts of work done” at his computer-related job.

“But I didn’t understand it and I just thought it was my personality,” he said. “I was never out of control.”

A year ago, however, things did get out of control. Within a month, his 17-year relationship ended, he was feeling intense pressure at work, and two of his close friends died. He started buying things he didn’t need, including five iPhones, two massage chairs, a $7,000 bed, computers and a robot. He rescued a dog while living in an apartment that forbade pets. And he stayed up for days with no sleep.

His sister and brother, who live on the east coast, became alarmed at his dramatic behavior shift and came out to L.A. to be with him.

“They saved my life because I would have had a heart attack staying up so many days,” Young said.

John young in Betzi class-all

John Young with fellow poetry students & instructor Betzi Richardson

The day after Super Bowl 2016 he had a breakdown and was admitted to a psychiatric ward, where he stayed for 16 days. That’s when he received the bipolar diagnosis and was put on medications.

Since then, he was forced to go on disability, he’s struggling with memory issues, and his medications are constantly being modified.

But he has been a productive writer, has taken stand-up comedy classes, and has even published a volume of poetry, “Hardcore Dance Poems,” which is available on Amazon in digital and paperback.

“Eyesore” (Dedicated to the legendary icons who have passed away through the years)

 Now that 

David Bowie’s died

Who’ll take his place

You or I?

 

Not in music

Just in style

You’re a delicious 

Eyesore in argyle

 

Don’t just sit there

Let’s do something 

Be like Andy Warhol

Not the village bumpkin

 

Say something different 

Say something important 

 

Oh shut up and 

Pass that bottle

Of juicy red currant

 

Let your body hit the dance floor

Let the dance floor hit your body 

 

Let your body hit the dance floor 

Let the dance floor kill your body

 

Runny makeup

In your eyes 

Dance the dance

Until you die

 

The Jean Genie 

Granted your wish

Your jeans will fit

Before you perish

 

I don’t have that many friends

But if you hold me

You’ll be one of them 

 

Butcher

Baker

Candle Stick

Maker

 

Actor

Model

Orgasm

Faker

 

You ran in screaming

What was I mumbling

 

I just smiled

And said

I love you

 

You can turn anything

Into a literal depiction

 

Yet you still have trouble

Separating fact from fiction

 

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