Partial Sight - Poems 1997-2007 - is a powerful, emotive and insightful reflection on life for those living outside mainstream society.

The poetry explores a wide range of contemporary, Australian cultural issues, from welfare, to suburbanization, to racism.

From the personal perspective of living with Schizophrenia and institutionalization; as well as negotiating the stresses of stigma and prejudice, Michael Ellem’s poetry at once informs and draws the reader into the world of life ‘on the edge of the whirl’.

This collection allows the reader to experience his world of ‘partial sight’. 

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ISBN:    978-1-921240-49-2
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 78
Genre: Non Fiction/Poetry


Author: Michael Ellem  
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2007
Language: English


About the Author

Michael Ellem has experienced schizophrenia since the age of sixteen and is an activist in the mental health field.  

He lives in Toowoomba , Queensland , with his wife Jennifer.  

By the same author:

Woodshedding to Recovery: 24 Years - A Personal Journey through Schizophrenia. Zeus Publications, 2006.

The Bird Kite. Zeus Publications, 2007.


Literature has often been considered an historical reflection of the societal structure of the time and place wherein it originated. It also serves to give people of other cultures and origins, a taste of a life lived differently; of locations and experiences that are especially at odds with the ‘norm’ in life. ‘Partial Sight’ is one such work.  

In this anthology of Michael Ellem’s journey towards recovery… of his first awakening (1997)… his sojourn of insightful growth out of the confusion of schizophrenia (which he so ably outlined in ‘Woodshedding  to Recovery’ (2006))… and his discovery of that loved and hated concept of ‘insight’… Mikey is able to recolour that idea into a framework of self discovery. He has pondered on one aspect that is so essential for a recovery journey, one that is explanatory of his ‘awakening’ and of his ability to continue the journey, ‘through the haze – the mist dispenses under the heat – until it settles, under a cloud of clarity’.(Awakening)  

The poetry takes us with him through the oftentimes uncomfortable parts of his journey, to places most readers have never been; psychiatric wards, confusion, alienation, political and personal ‘backstreets’ of life and living, ‘fighting the need to hide’. (Anxiety Attack)  

In describing the social isolation and depressive episodes of schizophrenia he poignantly writes of having an invisible identity, being a no-body, of being a non entity in our world, with all the trappings that society deems essential, absolutely stripped away ‘no vehicle rego, no jury service, no tenancy agreements, no overseas service, no mortgages, no telephone, nor electricity, no trail, no existence’. (No trail)

I can’t ask the reader to ‘enjoy’ reading this journey to ‘Partial Sight’ but I can entreat them to share some of the journey, have some insight into Michael’s delving as he undertakes the effort of travelling the hard road to recovery. The reader will be accompanying him as he journeys to his awakening, having us develop empathy and some understandings of the highs and lows of an eloquent journey man, and in the process have the benefit of ‘Partial Sight’.

Janet Meagher AM

Here are some samples:




Through strands of hair,

It is difficult to see,

A panoramic view of what unfolds,

Instead, I see parts of the whole,

Curved and twisted by the strands of hair,

Swirling in the breeze,

Sometimes blocking the sight,

Of one eye, or both,

So that sensory experience is dulled for a time,

And imagine being blind.


Sweeping aside the lock of hair,

To view fragments of titles,

A mouth, some tyres.


Imagining the whole through strands of hair,

Is preferable to looking through the prongs of forks,

Which dissect the world into perfect parts.


Better to experience curves and twists,

At the whim of the breeze.






I stare through the window at the man in the lock-up ward,

He has the most unusual smoking style,

Inhaling and exhaling, inhaling and exhaling, in rapidity,

Fragments of life in the lock-up ward,

Fragments of life in the open ward.


Through my bedroom door I can see the nurses’ station,

Change of shifts, new nurses to check, to watch, to scrutinize, to analyse,

Fragments of change,

Fragments of life.


She collects dumpers from the ashtrays,

Cuts them open then rolls a cigarette,

I offer her one and she gratefully accepts,

Then rolls another dumper,

Fragments of lifestyle,

Fragments of life.


Lining up for medication,

I wait in the lounge, smoking,

Medication time, medication time,

Fragments of anger,

Fragments of feelings.






Through the haze,

Sharp, penetrating clarity,

The mist disperses under the heat,

Of feelings, physicality, sexuality,

And my being erupts into a whirlwind,

Of words and love,

Of anger and angst,

Until it settles,

Under a cloud of clarity.  






A book on the shelf, yearned for but beyond reach,

The smell of paper and ink intoxicating, pages to be caressed by a lover,

But close at the touch of loneliness,

There is no key and a layer is peeled.


The sunrise and a waterfall are subsumed by a cloud,

Enveloping the mind in darkness and violence,

Senses, swathed in a grey haze impervious to sunlight,

No longer respond to nature’s perfume,

Or love,

And another layer is peeled.


Alienated in a work driven world which says it cares,

And does, in a perverse way,

Offering a glimpse of something impossible,


A column of shuffling feet,

Blighted by ennui,

And layer upon layer is peeled.






Lying under the doona, sweating,

Brushing the cockroaches off my face,

One crawls into my mouth.


A soccer ball is being belted against the shed,

I close my eyes and scream silently.


The statue of Buddha glistens in the early morning sunlight,

I reach out, to touch,

It falls and shatters on the concrete,

The shards cut my feet,

And my blood mingles with the corpses of cockroaches.

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