A reader contacted me this morning to say that after, having enjoyed Fleeting Ink, they were interested in reading Crossroads Poetry and Broken Body Fragile Heart, but that they couldn’t really cope with reading about self harm and therefore weren’t sure whether they’d be able to enjoy the collections. I can totally sympathise with this: at the time that I wrote these poems, reading about self harm probably would have screwed me over too, and the last thing I want my confessional poetry to do is set somebody else’s mental health back.
I think I talked about the content of these collections when they first came out, but that was three years ago, and anyone who picks them up at the moment might be caught out by it. I don’t want anyone to go into it unawares and therefore be negatively affected by the themes of the collections, so I thought I’d compile a list of the poems which are mostly likely to be triggering, in order that readers who need to can skip over those.
Obviously, I can’t warn for everything, as I don’t know what traumas people might have experienced. That’s why I’m doing this as a blog post rather than a PDF, so that I can update it if anyone asks me to warn for particular things.
I know some people think trigger warnings are a sign of oversensitive millennials, but personally, I’d rather be too careful than be responsible for upsetting someone whose mental health is delicate or who has recently experienced trauma, so… I’ll keep being a snowflake, thanks.
I think this collection is free from obvious triggers, like discussion of self harm and suicide. It’s that bit less personal and it’s focused on writing, rather than mental health. If, however, you read it and think, ‘Wow, I could’ve done with a warning for this,’ let me know and I’ll add something to this page.
The first three poems in this collection talk fairly frankly about self harm: ‘Muse of Blood’, ‘Sacrificial Monument’, and ‘Clarity’. But they’re all in a clump and right at the beginning, so relatively easy to skip.
The poem ‘Red On Grey’ was actually inspired by the Sherlock series two finale (welp, now the confessions are coming out). So, while it’s not particularly personal or whatever, it does describe events that people might find upsetting.
Broken Body Fragile Heart
This collection deals a lot with mental health as well as with trauma and disability. I would hope that the overall impression is a hopeful one, as it’s about recovery and rebuilding, but I still feel there might be people for whom it’s not a … helpful collection. I’m very grateful that you’ve expressed interest in reading my work, but the last thing I want to do is hinder people’s recovery, so please, look after yourselves.
‘Long-sleeved Shirt’ and ‘On My Own Terms’ both discuss self harm in a relatively explicit way. It’s also mentioned in passing in ‘November’ (part of the long poem ‘Two Pages Before Midnight’) and even more briefly in ‘December’, but this is less explicit / graphic and at this stage the theme is recovery.
‘February’ from ‘Two Pages Before Midnight’ contains what I guess you might call suicide ideation.
Broken Body Fragile Heart also deals with issues like dysphoria and religion, but I’m not really sure what warnings to give there or how much they’d be likely to affect anyone.
As far as I know, those are all of the most obviously triggering poems, or the ones that deal most obviously and frankly with these issues. There are plenty of other issues explored in the collection, but they’re generally done more implicitly, and therefore hopefully wouldn’t have a negative effect on anybody.
I hope this doesn’t discourage anyone from checking out my poetry, and instead allows people with mental health issues to make a more informed decision about whether or not they want to. As I said, Fleeting Ink ought to be free of triggering material: it’s about writing, it’s somewhat gay in places, it’s generally less confessional and personal than the other two and therefore might be easier to read.
And it’s still free on Kindle until this evening, so that’s a thing.
I’ll be linking to this post on the pages for each collection, and if anything is brought to my attention as triggering, I’ll add it. But as I said: while I am delighted whenever anyone shows interest in my work, if you think it would be unhelpful you emotionally to read about my poor mental health during a really dark period in my life (which is what BBFH especially deals with), then please don’t. It’s not worth that.
To the twenty-one people who have so far downloaded Fleeting Ink during this free promotion, more than doubling its all-time downloads and actually making it my most popular poetry collection: thank you so much. I hope you enjoy it, and I’d love to hear your thoughts via Goodreads and Amazon.