‘Please Hear What I’m Not Saying’, published by Fly on The Wall Poetry, is a stunning and unique collection of poems about mental illness.
The book is divided into sections, the idea being that the sections grow with positivity, and that by the end of the book, you will be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The sections are untitled, and the reader is invited to name them.
I wasn’t sure how I would react to this collection. How would it make me feel? Would I enjoy it reading it? Mental illness can be a difficult subject, and as this collection shows, it affects us all in different ways. The poems cover a wide range of topics including; depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide.
If I had read the poems individually, and at different times, the collection may not have had such an impact on me. But brought together and presented this way, I found the anthology powerful, inspirational and at times quite emotional. I can guarantee that there will be at least one poem included in this collection which every single reader can relate to.
It’s a strong and beautiful book. Thoughtfully and courageously edited by Isabelle Kenyon. The more I read, the more I appreciated the poets who contributed their words, emotions and bravery.
The opening poem ‘Battle’ by Bethany Gordon, highlights the unwanted struggle, and is a poignant introduction for this collection ‘Mental illness / is a battle I never agreed to fight.’
There are so many outstanding poems, to mention only a few seems to do an injustice to the others which I can’t fit into a single review. I enjoyed the strong imagery which runs throughout the anthology, and I found Angela Topping’s poem ‘Deferment’, about bereavement and personal belongings, particularly effective. ‘Grief is a cruel handbag – / its catch snaps shut like jaws.’ The poem makes us question how we deal with grief, and if we opened that bag what we might find. ‘…It cannot be thrown away. / Best hide it in the bottom of the wardrobe / an unexploded bomb.’
‘Black Rot’ by Andrew Barnes describes the onset and ongoing fight with depression. ‘She throws her arm around my shoulder, / pins me down until action weeps from me, / creeps back in the morning to stop me rising. // Depression is a friendly face, / she takes her time with me, / lets me shuffle on.’
‘On the Shelf’ by Jacqueline Pemberton is about escaping unhealthy thoughts and relationships. Emphasising finding inner courage and strength. ‘And I knew he’d got it wrong, / He was the damaged one / Made small with spite, / He wasn’t worth the fight.’
Some of these poems, by their very nature and subject, are a challenging read. However, you will also find some that they are inspirational, courageous and many have important messages about mental illness and societies’ reaction to it.
‘Blue Square with White ‘F’ in the Middle’ by Jade Moore is one of my favourites from this collection and details the impact and addiction to social media. The language used is direct and unapologetic, powerful and effective. The poem cleverly recognises our love hate relationship with social media, our desire to belong and our fear of failure. ‘There’s a button with the whole world on its face / and I click it and wonder if I’ve stopped the human race.’
I’m glad I read this collection. It was thought-provoking and inspiring.
Proceeds from the sale of ‘Please Hear What I’m Not Saying’ go to UK Mental Health Charity Mind.
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