By B. Diehl
Review by Jarad Johnson
In his second volume of poetry, B. Diehl offers us a serious and cerebral exploration of depression, among other things. The poems are thought-provoking and at times read like a personal diary entry. What I really enjoyed about the poetry was that it felt like it wasn’t written for anyone in particular; that is, it reads like someone’s own personal thoughts, which I think makes it more relatable than if it was pandering to a specific audience. John Stuart Mill said that poetry is, “feeling confessing itself to itself in moments of solitude and embodying itself in symbols which are the nearest possible representations of the feeling in the exact shape in which it exists in the poet’s mind.” If I were to sum up the collection, I would probably go with something similar to that definition. It’s very much internalized and self-reflective.
One of the first poems that stood out to me was entitled, “Even Suicide Seems Dull Today,” and perhaps you can see why the title caught my eye. The poem perfectly sums up the feeling of boredom. You can sense the radiating listlessness. The author says that he feels, “unfocused,” and the poem itself reflects that; it has no specific narrative and is very stream-of-consciousness, adding to the feeling of being unmoored, without motivation or inclination to do much of anything. This is something that most people experience at some point during their lives.
As a Women and Gender Studies Minor, Feminist, and overall Liberal Heathen, I was struck by the poem, “Abortion Clinic,” which details going into one such clinic. I love the fact that he even wrote the poem, because abortion is on the list of topics that people generally don’t like to talk about. Abortion is still, in 2018, a matter of rigorous debate (which is putting it nicely, by the way) all across America. But, what struck me most about the poem was the description of the protesters outside the clinic. The fact that people take it upon themselves to protest such a personal decision, is, to me, the height of hypocrisy, especially when it comes from so-called, “Christians,” only because they have set themselves up as the supposed moral authority. But of course, these bigots aren’t really Christian. They are merely using the label (like homophobes and the like do) as an excuse and a justification for that same hypocrisy. I think that is now abundantly clear and has been made clearer in recent years, just from an outside perspective. Furthermore, I think my favorite part was the last line, which said, “We walked into the clinic, heroically.”
Finally, I really enjoyed the poem called, “Happy Birthday to B,” because it displays a tiredness that I think that many people are experiencing. The news and politics are exhausting, and I think that this poem portrays that perfectly. More than that, though, I think it displays a tiredness of everything staying the same. The first line of the poem is, “I’m 26 years old, and nothing has changed.” When you’re younger, you often think that everything will be better when you’re an adult. Then, when you’re finally an adult, you think something better is constantly around the corner, often. This poem, for me, is talking about the myth of adulthood. It talks about what we all eventually realize: that being an adult has its own challenges, arguably more challenges than those of a non-adult. It doesn’t automatically guarantee that great and wonderful things will happen to you, even though children are still told and believe this myth. I also thoroughly appreciated the line, “All I want to do is watch a swarm of women and immigrants build a wall around Donald Trump.”
Overall, I enjoyed this collection a great deal. I found it to be insightful, thought-provoking, and at times uncomfortable in a good way, which gave the overall feel of unapologetic rawness. I think that one of the best things about the collection that the author did not shy away from controversial topics like abortion and Trump. Poetry is truth distilled into concrete artifacts. Unfortunately, not all those artifacts are beautiful or comfortable. Poetry enables us to see them with a different lens. Using political context from life around us is inherently a good thing, because controversial topics are usually what need to be discussed and debated, but often enough they need to be picked up and examined, have the hypocrisy and dust shaken from them so that we can see them for what they are. This book did that for me.
Jarad attends Middle Tennessee State University, loves tea, and tries to spend every spare second reading. Jarad is majoring in English. Bless his heart! Let's all light a candle for him and send him happy thoughts!