Humanly by Stevie Edwards
Publisher: Small Doggie Press
Dog Eared Review by Lindsey Lewis Smithson (review contributor)
While I’m not a fan of the phrase trigger warning, I feel like I need to start with that when discussing Stevie Edwards new book Humanly, out from Small Doggie Press. Trigger for what you may ask? Basically everything, at least everything that can be held “deep behind the heavy velvet drapes of Klonopin,/Lamictal, Lexapro, Abilify, Propranolol—“ (83). This is an emotionally challenging collection of poems that face down suicide, rape, abuse, neglect, death, hospitalizations and more. Few punches are dodged and no details are spared. The speaker reads like the friend you have always wanted to ask the hard questions of, but never had the courage to do so; Edwards brings readers to the face of what so many try to hide from.
In terms of the writing itself the poems are worded precisely, with recurring turns of phrase, like “dread clothes,” wound throughout to create unity. The narrative of the collection, as it were, follows the speaker through the depths of depression, suicide attempts, hospitalization and recovery. The opening section struggles with the ideas of silence and connection, of wanting to look at (or rewrite) memories despite the emotional struggle to do so. Along the way, especially in the middle section, poets like Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Dylan Thomas make appearances both by name and in style and content. There is a great deal of the Confessional voice here, and tonally it reminiscent of W.D. Snodgrass’ Heart’s Needle or Robert Lowell’s Life Studies. The concluding section is still melancholy, but on the path of recovery. There is beauty and necessity in the normal and the mundane, “to be good/to our working lungs, our working/legs, our working hearts” (113).
I am of two opinions on the length of the collection. A part of me wishes the collection were shorter, since it was emotionally draining to read, but I also respect that it needs to be this long to create the full range of feeling that Edwards appears to want. For someone who wants to know what suffering and regrowth feels like, this book is amazing, or for a reader who has recovered and can find a kindred spirit in the speaker it is a must read. If you are in a difficult emotional state now, tread lightly; this may either give you the light that you need to recover, or prove to be a challenging mountain to climb. No matter where you are at in your life though, there is no doubt that there is a great deal of beautiful, carefully rendered craft here, and for that this book should eventually end up on most people’s To Read list.
Dog Eared Pages:
4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 23, 25, 27, 31, 33, 34, 35, 39, 40, 42, 43, 44, 55, 60, 62, 65, 67, 68, 75, 76, 79, 81, 82, 88, 92, 93, 94. 109, 113
Lindsey Lewis Smithson is the Editor of Straight Forward Poetry. Some of her poetry has appeared on , , , and