Second Life by Karl Tearney.
When life is tough, impossible and everything is a struggle, we all have coping strategies – or at least need them. For Karl Tearney, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder “It’s just a silly acronym/ That means I am insane” is a daily reality that has led to him believe that “I’m not who I should be”. Moreover, it led him to be discharged from the Army as “treatment intolerant” and counselling was a struggle. Fortunately for him, and for many other people who have attended workshops that he has led, he discovered words – the sort of answer that can come from writing poetry, writing feelings out on paper. Now his poems, his writing, are available in the form of a book which is striking for its honesty and authenticity in their simplicity. Many people have found help for their mental health challenges in writing, and this book shows that raw and direct poetry can make a real difference. These are not pretentious poems full of obscure allusions that require extensive knowledge to interpret; rather they represent the honest thoughts that can invade or linger in the mind, seen in everyday situations that any reader can relate to whatever their life experience. An important book, it can inspire, comfort and lead anyone to think that they too can release powerful emotions as well as idle thoughts through the medium of writing, even if they are not as gifted as Tearney is in composing the punchy thought of rare insight. I found this a challenging and compelling read and I was glad to have had the opportunity to read and review this book of stunningly honest poems.
This book begins with an autobiographical note which reveals how Tearney’s life and military experience have led him to this point; the memories that are entrenched, the emotions that have shaped his mental state. The explanation for his work is stated in the message that he tries to pass on in schools and in other forums “how the use of art and words can be fundamental to finding inner peace, when struggling inside a torn mind”. The book is divided into three sections: “My Mental Mind”, “Love” and “Moments”. Many of the poems in the first section are in simple four line stanzas with a straightforward rhyming scheme, but these are not easy to write or sustain; Tearney avoids the trite or gimmicky rhymes that would make them obvious. These are simple poems which a twist, a clever use of words to release truth while leaving a lasting impression. I particularly enjoyed “There is” with all its contrasts of hope following trauma or challenges. The “Love” section features some of the consolations of love, and my favourite is “Loving”, a more free flowing but well plotted poem which contains some lovely ideas. “Moments” has indeed some memorable moments of beauty, tragedy and the natural and the everyday world.
This is not a mental health self help books in the usual way, but it is inspiring and encouraging in the way it takes everyday situations and thoughts to make a successful piece of writing. Some poems are more memorable than others, but all are accessible while making the reader think. The concept behind this book, that anyone can find release and a level of therapy from writing poetry or even just putting words on paper, works well and would encourage many to take the plunge and write. This book represents a collection of thoughts that have obviously been important to Tearney and would probably also be significant to many readers who would undoubtedly find this book interesting. I recommend this book not only for the poem it contains, but also for the inspiration it represents for many readers.
Recently we went to Stratford upon Avon for the day recently, and had an excellent time at Mary Arden’s House and farm. Seen as a working farm, the volunteers and staff spare no effort to give every possible piece of insight into Tudor life. The clothes they wear, the setting of the house and farm buildings and their assumed characters were all fascinating and very informative. It is a wonderful place for a visit, and not just for Shakespeare fans!