Coming Up Unstuck

Lisa Yvonne, illustrated by Henry Scott

Publisher: Fernhead Publishing Pages: 181 Price: (paperback) $19.95 ISBN: 9780998219905 Reviewed: September, 2017 Author Website: Visit »

This collection of free verse takes readers on one woman’s grieving journey through divorce. Divided into two phases—Awareness and Consciousness—the book delves into psychological and spiritual changes associated with the crisis.

The author’s failed marriage and subsequent search for self inspires the work, which focuses solely on her personal experiences. An early page advises various ways to read the material, including: “If you want to immerse yourself in grief immediately, you can go start in ‘Stuck in Numbness’” (where readers find: “I am lost forever. No one knows how to get me out./ I am stuck in love, life, and happiness.// My grief crashes into my body and permeates my soul”).  A brief prose introduction to each chapter offers context to the work that follows.

Although the author eventually takes responsibility for her happiness, most of the poetry focuses on misery. “Terror of Indifference” is typical, offering a concrete poem that dwells on the anguish accompanying her budding awareness: “[…] fingers creeping/ tight over/ throats/ terror of indifference/ stains the ground/ with the brown/ curdled/ scream of/ nothingness.”

The second phase offers a glimmer of hope. From the poem “Flexibility,” comes this suggestion: “environments/ changing/ flexibility is the key/ living life to its fullest/ and daring to be/ me.” In addition, uplifting quotations and concepts from spiritual leaders, writers, and other teachers (such as Rumi) are sprinkled throughout.

Content is chronicled sequentially, allowing readers to easily follow the speaker’s journey. Unfortunately, while the poetry style is highlighted by occasional imagery and word play, it’s more often prose-like and devoid of distinctive, evocative detail, as in: “I can’t seem/ to stand up/ for/ myself.” In addition, the presentation has a chaotic feel, with a hodgepodge of summary and context pages, citations, illustrations, and sometimes-indecipherable doodles.

Self-absorption and negativity detract from the work overall. Nonetheless, the author’s insight may offer comfort to other women “stuck” in grief.

Author's Current Residence
Suwanee, Georgia