In Controversial Poetry: ADHD, A True Sickness, Sara L. Wilson’s speaker aims to educate her readers about attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder and the challenges she faced growing up with ADHD.
The book collects free-verse and rhyming poems, each accompanied by a “Side Note” in which the author comments on the inspiration for each poem and/or the process of writing it. Drawings by a departed friend are also interspersed throughout.
Wilson writes explicitly of her situation in many of her Side Notes. For example: “As a hypersensitive kid with ADHD, I had little to no control of my emotions and felt things I could not explain.” And: “As a child, I had crazy dreams and nightmares. Sometimes I couldn’t tell which was worse: my nightmares or being awake.” Titles like “Sadness,” “Overcome,” “Alone,” “Suicide” all echo the collection’s themes of difference, despair, and loneliness.
This is rich material to explore, and readers will, indeed, empathize with the author’s struggles. Unfortunately, the poems themselves lack specific, concrete details that would bring those struggles alive. Instead, readers encounter vague, generalized descriptions of sadness. For example, “Apart From Everyone” contains these lines: “Apart from everyone/ But I don’t know why./ How can I be so different?/ I, too, bleed and cry.”
As illustrated in that snippet, Wilson’s poetry relies on telling rather than showing. Readers are told that the speaker’s journey with ADHD has been difficult, but they haven’t experienced the particulars of her condition or the nuances of her relationships with others. Instead of memorable sensory details and scenes from lived experience, the author offers abstractions: “where sadness was replaced with anger,” “Going through all of the moments/ That we have gone through,” “With every new day that comes,/ Comes another tear./ Feeling my hate./ Feeling my pain.”
Controversial Poetry is an earnest, heartfelt attempt to reveal the speaker’s inner turmoil. However, it requires revision with an eye for concrete, telling details to appeal to fans of contemporary poetry.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.