I am extremely grateful to Isabelle Kenyon, editor and compiler, for a copy of Please Hear What I’m Not Saying in return for an honest review. Whilst this anthology is composed of poems from a range of poets, I have also been lucky enough to review Isabelle’s own work, This is not a Spectacle, here.
Please Hear What I’m Not Saying
With over 600 submissions, poets from around the world put their pens to paper to create this anthology, enthused by a common goal to raise money for the charity, Mind. With poems focusing on mental health from a wide range of experiences, this book aims to continue the worldwide conversation about mental health.
The profits from this book go to UK Charity, Mind.
Trigger warnings by chapter:
Section One: References include war, depression, grief, alcoholism, bulimia, trauma, suicide
Section Two: Sexual abuse, self harm, suicide threat, Borderline personality disorder, electro shock therapy, razors
Section Three: Postpartum depression, hospital ward
Section Four: Anxiety, pills, Borderline personality disorder, eating disorder
Section Five: Poverty
Section Six: Alzheimer’s
Section Seven: Depression
Section Eight: Therapy
My Review of Please Hear What I’m Not Saying
With a wide range of topics covered, Please Hear What I’m Not Saying has a poem for every reader and every emotion.
As soon as I began reading I realised that Please Hear What I’m Not Saying is no ordinary anthology. There are eight sections and the reader is encouraged to give them titles themselves so that reading the poems is an active process rather than the passive one reading can be.
I love the idea that this collection has come from a wide range of poets in support of the charity Mind as I’m sure we all can appreciate the range of emotions displayed and the anxieties and real illness so many of the poets write about. I’m certain, for example, that there is both a Muriel and Maud (Two Women by Jan McCarthy) in all of us.
The themes explored range from, amongst others, post natal depression through self harm, drug dependency and anorexia, death and – ultimately in the final section, some hope. I felt these were not mere poems, but genuine experiences that illustrate the complex nature of modern life and its challenges. My heart went out to so many of the poets featured, even when they were not writing directly about themselves. There’s such emotion between the pages of Please Hear What I’m Not Saying.
I loved the range of techniques in these poems that help convey their messages. In The Sibilance of Depression by CR Smith, for example, the repetition of the letter s in almost every word echoes that very sibilance and creates a wonderful sense of evil arising from depression. Emotions are personified, repetitions and enjambement, endstopped lines, assonance and alliteration all contribute to the beauty of so many of these poems – and the emotion of them too. I thought the concept that for those struggling with mental health issues the world is like a Rubik’s cube that cannot be properly aligned as in Girl Outside by Alan Savage was inspired. Many of the poems, like Fragile by Kathryn Metcalf, refer to breaking glass, shattering and smashing so that the violence of these feelings is utterly clear to the reader.
However, although so much of the writing is about negative emotions, feelings and action (or, indeed stultifying inaction), that isn’t to say these poems are all miserable and bleak. I found humour and hope too. Rushing by Neil Elder made me smile and On Coming Across Sika Deer by Rachel Burns reminded me of the healing power of nature. Indeed, I agree completely with the sentiments in Catherine Whittaker’s Take Time Out that we all need to embrace the simple things in life, including nature from time to time.
Please Hear What I’m Not Saying is a brilliant anthology. I appreciated the incredible bravery of some of the poets in laying bare their innermost emotions and certainly admired their literary techniques. I felt I had been afforded an intimate glimpse into the minds of those featured so that it felt a privilege to read their words and I feel as if I have been educated as well as entertained. I was delighted to find mini biographies at the end of the anthology too so that I can now investigate further the poets I particularly enjoyed. Reading Please Hear What I’m Not Saying not only entertained and moved me, but it made me grateful for my own mental health and the life I have.
More importantly, however, I feel Please Hear What I’m Not Saying could be a fabulous boon to those with their own mental health problems as perhaps, through reading these poems, they will find kindred spirits and perhaps realise they are not alone.
About Isabelle Kenyon
Isabelle Kenyon is a poet, blogger and book reviewer. Her poems have published online for Bewildering Stories and as a Micro Chapbook for Origami Poetry Press. Isabelle has also featured in poetry anthologies such as Anti Heroin Chic, Literary Yard, the Inkyneedles anthology, Poetry Rivals, and the Great British Write Off. Isabelle has won awards and commendations from The Wirral festival of Music, Speech and Drama,the Festival of Firsts, the Langwith Scott Award for Art and Drama and the Visit Newark Poetry competition.