On the Battlefield of Depression presents us with a quandary, perhaps nothing heart-stopping, but substantive nonetheless.
On one hand, the text and content amount to a poetry journal, describing Jennifer Hume’s excruciating ordeal as she struggles with clinical depression, moving from onset to despair to acceptance to healing. One can’t equivocate by describing it as “poetic” — though it sometimes achieves lyricism — just because the entries are formatted as poems. (The word: “poetry” never appears anywhere, but you can’t ignore the text organization, which presents this episodic diary in free-verse form.)
On the other hand, if you compare it to say, Go Ask Alice, the posthumously published, utterly unselfconscious account of drug addiction, that doesn’t work either, as Hume is clearly aware of an audience and her need to entertain, surmise, step back and so on. She cleaves to the implications of poetry (creating autonomous, resonant pieces) without declaring that intent.
Whatever you call the work, Hume’s key strength is her frankness, spontaneity and brimming thoughts. Her writing is informed by intelligence, cleverness, and openness. In “Crying,” she begins, “Don’t cry, mustn’t cry, hold it all inside/ ache within the fear,…” In “Deflated,” she says: “Praying to my God gives me reason and purpose.” Hume’s key weakness is her tendency to explain her situation, to give us the upshot without taking us into the internal experience.
On the Battlefield of Depression delivers a wealth of poignant, practical insights and even the occasionally successful image: “Tonight’s moon whispers its hello (“Persistent”). It is, perhaps, the tantalizing flirtation of poetry that makes it disappointing when Hume resorts to nebulous terms such as “soul” and “very being” or categories such as “hope,” “anger” and “frustration.”
That being said, the author has a distinct gift for avid, imaginative and authentic self-expression. On the Battlefield of Depression works well as kind of hybrid between memoir and poetry collection, a touching (if not altogether trenchant) exploration of emotional illness.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.