Title: The Chaos of Longing
Author: K. Y. Robinson
Length: 160 pages
Published by: Andrew McMeel Publishing
Pub date: Sept 26th, 2017 (This was an updated and further edited edition of an already published book)
Source: A digital copy was provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
My Rating: ★★★★☆
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The short version: There were a few poems that I might have cut out, but overall, this collection is incredible, and I could find a piece of myself in nearly every poem.
The long version: Through blog posts and Goodreads groups, I have heard quite a bit of talk from fellow readers about the idea of trigger warnings being placed somewhere in books with sensitive material to warn people who may be mentally harmed by such content. Those of you who are pro-warning will be pleased to see that, right after the dedication, a page is given to warn people that this collection “contains descriptions of sexual trauma, suicidal ideation, racism, and sexism. Please exercise discretion and healthy self-care.”
And it’s easy to see why Ms. Robinson deems the warning necessary. While I wouldn’t exactly call any of her poems “explicit,” there really isn’t any secret to what she’s writing about. (The language didn’t make me feel uncomfortable because it was graphic, but I’m not about to hand this collection to a ten-year-old.)
Broken into four sections, this collection follows the speaker as she first enters into the chaos of longing, searches for her worth, enters into toxic relationships, and then works to build a foundation of self-love. Because of that, this collection sometimes felt like an emotional roller coaster, but in a good way.
I think that roller coaster is part of what made this collection so poignant for me. As a woman, and someone who has dealt with mental illness, I can understand and identify with a lot of what Robinson writes about. There were poems that discussed tough topics, made all the more painful because I could see myself in them.
“healing requires / every cell / in your body, / but i’m so used / to dealing / with myself / in fragments.”
On the flip side, there were hope-filled poems made all the more encouraging because there was a part of me there, too.
“there’s a universe / swirling inside you. / … you are a natural / phenomenon- / not a natural disaster.”
While there are parts of this collection I could see myself in, the parts that I couldn’t made the collection that much more real. I’m gonna do my best to describe what I mean, but I apologize in advance if it doesn’t make sense. It’s like, I could experience some of the highs and some of the lows because of our shared experiences, but knowing that there were even lower lows and even higher highs based on things we didn’t share (ethnicity, trauma) made many of her poems even more piercing, and kept me reading to the end.
“i am afraid / to have a child. / i am afraid / their black body / will be considered / unholy land / … their voice / will be heard as / a war cry.”
All in all, this collection manages to be both fierce and fragile at the same time. Blunt and piercing, these poems show what it truly means to experience life as a woman of color: the good, the bad, and the beautiful. I would definitely recommend this collection to poetry veterans and newbies alike.
Thanks for reading!
Have you read this book, yet? If you have, what did you think? If you haven’t, do you want to? Let me know in the comments below!