In A Time to Cry, poet Paul Kloschinsky confronts readers with a bare, harrowing account of his mental breakdowns and struggles to regain a normal life. As such, it is not, and is not meant to be, an easy read.
Writing what is at once poetry and therapy is nothing new. Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton and, more recently, Franz Wright, have all written powerfully of their mental and emotional difficulties. What is required is a willingness to expose the raw nerve, the underlying particulars of trauma and hurt that are both the root and result of mental illness.
Kloschinsky makes a fine start at this with an early poem, “A Lunatic’s Abyss,” in which he writes: “Some say it’s through suffering / that we learn and become wise, / like spiritual basic training, / but all it feels like / is a slide backwards.” The weariness and deflation in that last line is a warning to readers that madness, even in a poet, is not the romantic agony it is sometimes portrayed as.
Despite such promise, though, Kloschinsky’s works do not amount to a solid book of poems overall. There are too many worn out cliches sprinkled throughout — such as “stand strong… like a mighty oak,” “the lone wolf howls,” and “like rats from a sinking ship.” Even more problematic is Kloschinsky’s habit of bending his lines into corkscrews of infelicitous images. This can be a small blip, such as referring to his “somewhat unique experience,” (unique is singular and can’t be modified by ”somewhat’”). Similarly, lines about “a rotting corpse / too far gone / to revive” leaves the reader puzzled: a corpse, by definition, cannot be ”revived.”
It’s clear that Kloschinsky has struggled long and hard with his emotional breakdowns. To universalize that experience into more effective poetry, he now needs to carry that fight, that energy and determination, to the language he uses to express his journey from madness to sanity.