Robin L. Harvey approached me for a review of her book: her first work of personal writing (as opposed to her public writing as a journalist). What a delight it was to read this poetry anthology! I hope you enjoy my review.
PTSD: Poems To Slay Demons is powerful. Robin L. Harvey conjures up situations into which the reader must interpret the detail. One example is the short poem Sisters:
Secrets locked up tight. Dark whispers under covers. Two souls fight for light.
Alluding to worlds fuller than what is explicitly stated increases the accessibility and appeal of Harvey’s writing: individuals can readily bring their own experiences to the text, posing questions to reach personal conclusions.
Cryptic omission of detail about individual incidents in no way diminishes from the visceral poems. Mood is an important element: raw emotion immerses the reader into feeling-states, channelling the emotions which sometimes flip 180 degrees from one verse to the next. Empathy for the protagonist is inevitable.
The author’s employment of a range of literary techniques builds each poem confidently. Her carefully-chosen adjectives and accomplished extended metaphors pack a punch. In reference to the ‘bipolar whirligig’ in Gone Crazy – Back Soon? Harvey writes:
I am the clown who endures with a free ticket to crazy town stamped on my DNA
The Great Escape, in which she equates being sold as stock on her wedding day, features the celebrant as ‘the white-collared auctioneer robed in black’. By the end of this poem the helplessness and despair from her withered dreams denote that ‘the unbecoming began’. The audience travels with her as she succumbs to obscurity and irrelevance, as one within a partnership.
The hurtful deception of marital infidelity in Dicentra contrasts starkly her husband’s ‘endless fields of bold, brassy zinnias’ with her tender experiences of him ‘pick[ing] each petal off my simple, blushing / love one by one’. Her anguish is palpable.
No matter what the theme, the poems are memorable. The opening line ‘One night six shots past stupid’ concisely foreshadows a situation brimming with actions that will later be regretted: perhaps bringing to mind readers’ own occasions when they were overdrunk and made poor decisions.
The layout is chronological to a point, following Harvey from a young girl to various ages and stages of adulthood, delving into trauma alongside conventional age-related experiences. The last sections are more outwardly themed, bringing in political events and the Covid pandemic. Such is her skill that the poems are gripping even if the reader cannot pick out the separate details of world events … and when they can, layers of understanding increase meaning exponentially.
Harvey’s anthology embraces the thought, ‘Why do I mind … this mindless, mindful melt-down?’ Each poem contributes to the beautiful synergy of the whole, enclosed within a book cover that invites the reader in through eyes of panic and mouth of scream. Delve into the darkness, journey with Harvey as she explores the polarities of trauma and love and many aspects in between: it’s a worthwhile ride.
For another perspective, check out Fatima Aladdin’s review of this book on Reedsy (the platform Robin found me on).
Robin shared my review on her Facebook page, commenting ‘A lovely tribute from Annabel Harz, advocate, artist, poet and writer!’ Thanks, Robin!
She also reviewed my second book, Journey into the Shadow and the Sunshine. Watch for my upcoming post.