Thank you to Robin L. Harvey for a copy of her collection to review.
“let me drown her whispered lies in yellow blooms
so at last I hear my children laugh in sunny rooms
amid the scent of daffodils” [The Genie in My Genes]
A timely read in the month of May, Mental Health Awareness month, PTSD: Poems to Slay Demons by Robin Harvey is an ode to survival, power and healing.
Harvey’s style is sharp and wonderfully rhythmic. These poems are a joy to read and to speak; ‘Fly Bye-Bye, Mean Girls’ is a fantastic tongue-twister of a piece, as Harvey uses internal rhyme to imbue her poetry with a fiery power ensuring the collection as a whole lives up to its fierce title of slaying inner and outer demons with a showcase of bravery, lessons learned and a confidence in self healing.
There are tender moments too; poems which encapsulate the trauma and hurt but without reducing Harvey’s work to a personal narrative the reader cannot relate to. Poems like Daddy (“I think I was born shell-shocked / locked in a war with you”) and Tin Man (“as he cut me paper thin / and folded me in pieces / to grope my wind-stung skin”) employ visceral imagery to illustrate the experiences of a child and an adult in toxic, abusive relationships. Yet, at no point did I feel triggered by Harvey’s work, which, as someone diagnosed with Complex PTSD, I am very grateful for.
It was refreshing to read a collection which undoubtedly deals with heavy subject matter but does so in a way which does not forfeit its readers' enjoyment. Hence, I loved the wit behind Harvey’s words - “this faithless love suits you to a / t / [...] while Mary Maggie, she walks free”. These pieces, in which Harvey harnesses a sharpness and rhythm, were definitely the strongest, making the collection certain to slay some demons. A few were a little reliant on cliché imagery (Dicentra and If I Fall) but several were superb poems that’ll stay with me, such as ‘Tennyson was Wrong’ and ‘Them’s Fightin’ Words’.
All in all, Harvey’s collection is one I would recommend, especially during a month where conversations turn to de-stigmatising mental health conditions, as it provides light and power during a heavy time.
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