The Emma Press Anthology of Illness, edited by Amy Mackelden and Dr Dylan Jaggard.
What if I am unmasked, accused / of changing my story in the retelling / of misrepresentation / of misunderstanding?
The Emma Press was founded in 2012 by Emma Dai’an Wright, who works across all areas of the business, from commissioning, editing, typesetting and illustrating to marketing and sales. The Press’ output is varied, elegant and perfectly formed, encompassing poetry, prose and translations. In this Anthology, illness is held up to the light and examined across countless iterations by 30 different poets.
The range of approaches and depth of emotional heft in this collection is massive and will stay with me forever: it is, in part, because I recognize myself in so many places, and more importantly in the white spaces where the poets ask you to consider what it is that they don’t discuss, and that you as a reader cannot see.
Lessons from the Text
There are so many brilliant narratives on show here that it almost impossible to zero in on particulars: in my case, Jane Burn’s Eating Myself to Death was the poem that affected me so much I didn’t want to do this blog, couldn’t do it yesterday when it should have been scheduled. To watch someone else lay out so starkly what an eating disorder really encompasses, and the journey to reclaim yourself from it… make me reassess my own outlook.
As someone who for decades could not be honest over the myriad nature of their mental health issues, I hold nothing but awe and wonder for these poets who can lay out the stark consequence of journeys so clearly. From Lucy Fox’s heartbreaking Trapped, though the surreal horror of Alison Winch’s Occupational Therapist to Mollie Russell’s genuinely disquietening and absolutely on the money My Nephew’s Second Birthday: A Saga of Self-Stimulatory Behaviour…
I know I keep telling you that certain books are a must-have. In this case, I can find myself wanting to send specific people from my past copies of particular poems, just to show them truths I was never able to utter, but these poets can. This is not a fun read: it’s hard and painful and often emotionally draining. I don’t regret it, though. Not one iota.
I realize that a lot of my life could be a LOT easier if I just read simple stuff, but, honestly, where’s the challenge in that? Challenge yourself with this collection. It’s worth it.
Will you read it again? I want everybody to read it who thinks they know what it’s like to be sick, have long term illness, or is arrogant enough to suggest that some people just put their issues on for show. You know who you are.
Would you recommend it for me to read? Yes, but there are a LOT of Triggers in this book. You might be surprised where you find them, too.