In Mental Health, Poetry, and I, Brendon Feeley explores the interior world of his mental health, among other topics, through mostly rhyming poems.
In the preface, Feeley writes that “Even in modern times, mental health is still attached to unjustified stigma and shame,” and that through writing poetry, he has “been able to find a healthy outlet for [his] emotions.” Feeley also shares that he is in a wheelchair as a result of a 1998 spinal injury at age 13.
Throughout the collection, Feeley personifies his mind as both an antagonist and part of his autonomy, as in “It’s My Mind,” which begins, “My mind, my enemy,/ I’m taking the reins./ I’m taking over/ before nothing remains.” His use of short declarative statements is typical of his overall style.
The tone of the book is dark, as reflected in many poems such as “The Darkness,” in which the narrator shares his ongoing battle in a cycle of pain through Gothic-style imagery: “I crave the darkness/ because of new dawn’s light./ My demon-shaped shadow/ I must again fight.”
The collection is at its strongest when including startling details, such as the names of pharmaceuticals in “Medicated”: “Amitriptyline, benzodiazepine,/ fluoxetine, and nicotine/ coursing through my bloodstream/ keep my demons in quarantine” and less strong where it uses unadorned prose lacking imagery or detail, as in “You Have a Friend,” which begins, “I know where you are./ I can see your pain./ I’ve been where you are.” While one senses the sincerity in these raw expressions, there’s little art for poetry fans to enjoy.
Most contemporary poetry readers will likely miss the poetic devices—such as fresh, imaginative imagery and lyricism—employed by more accomplished fare. Still, this collection might serve as a mirror and solace for readers going through hard times, whether due to disability, mental health challenges, the everyday struggles of all mortals, or some combination of all.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.