The Ecstasy of Agony

Katherine Gray

Publisher: Xlibris Pages: 51 Price: (paperback) $19.99 AUD ISBN: 9781479719013 Reviewed: October, 2013 Author Website: Visit »

This book’s back cover promises “A poetic journey through the dark night of the soul.” Indeed, 45 untitled poems about the misery of lost love comprise this articulate, though gloomy, compilation.

A profound sense of despair informs each poem, from the first (“the darkness / so complete in its silence / shrouds her soul in despair”) to the last ( “Hell / is a place in my mind / a seething agony / boiling in the cauldron of my tears”). Poems describe a “castle of demons,” “black hole,” “black death,” “black dog stalking my soul,” “diseased toad,” and “bleeding soul.”

The book reflects hopelessness, such as being “too damaged to be helped / too broken to be fixed / too doomed to be saved.” Yet there’s a hint of salvation: “Fate is a black lion stalking me / …I choose… my fate / for within the jaws of the cat / lies the promise of rebirth.”

Ideally poems would be arranged to indicate a shift in consciousness as the book progresses, with more optimistic poems at the end, but that’s not the case here. Through rhymed and unrhymed poetry, the author explores the ecstasy of agony, i.e., an exquisitely painful state where fear and desperation seem like the only available emotions. Unrelenting themes of abandonment and repetitive word choices (“black,” “death,” “pain,” “agony,” “darkness,” “soul,” “bleed,” “hell,” “ache,” “torture”) detract from overall enjoyment.

Inconsistencies in style also plague this small volume. The first four poems are written in third person before inexplicably switching to first person for the remainder of the book. Writing ranges from poignantly descriptive imagery (“the emptiness where once you dwelt: / a ragged, bleeding, reddened welt”) to mundane narration (“I hurt so much, / I can’t stand the pain…”).

Others enduring similar emotional crises may find comfort in sharing the author’s misery, but those looking for deeper insights and uplift would be advised to seek it elsewhere.

Also available as an ebook.

Author's Current Residence
NSW, Australia
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