On Sanatorium

a collaborative project with Abi Palmer

The disabled, queer poet Abi Palmer wrote large portions of her debut novel Sanatorium (2020) from her bathroom in a council flat in South London. Here, she welcomes the reader into the most intimate of spaces, discussing her experience with chronic illness, queerness and disability openly. We are taken on a journey between a series of spaces linked with her treatment, from a luxurious spa in Budapest, through an NHS ward in the outskirts of London, the home where she grew up, and to the bath where she is writing from. She lives with Ehler-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that makes her joints, skin and ligaments lose, and psoriatic arthritis, which cause autoimmune inflammation in her joints. Bathing makes her condition better; her muscles stronger and offers pain relief. Here, she reflects upon the way that stiffness and fluidity meet, the straight and the queer, pain and pleasure. As I meet Abi a few months after she launched her book with an online stream from her inflatable bathtub, I want to hear more. I want her to tell me about her bathroom.

Sanatorium is a collaborative project between myself and Palmer, where I engage with her work and writing through filmmaking. The collaboration was made possible with an i-Portunus Mobility Grant in 2019.

Abi Palmer. Still from footage, 16mm, Anna Ulrikke Andersen.