“Harnessing Darkness: Expressing Mental Illness through Poetry” by Caleb Woods

Caleb Woods
Caleb Woods (2019)
ISBN 9780578531465
Reviewed by Susan Violante for Reader Views (01/2020)

What hooked me when I picked up “Harnessing Darkness: Expressing Mental Illness through Poetry” by Caleb Woods was the title. We all have a dark side, but how can you control darkness? Woods presents us with a poetic collection of his thoughts, emotions, and experiences in his struggle with mental illness, and growing up gay in America’s bible belt. “Harnessing Darkness” consists of four sections: Birth, Life, Death, Rebirth. His poems are written in different formats. Some are painful and very dark. Others are hopeful.

Caleb Woods did an awesome job letting his voice come through.  His words flowed as their meaning touched me deeply, like the depth of darkness revealed in some of them like, ‘Tangled’ and ‘Death.’ One that took me back to a past life from many years ago, which I try to forget is ‘Locked Inside.’ However, the one that resonated within my own darkness I present below as a sample of Caleb’s work:

Killing Myself with Words
I slit my wrists to let the words come out.
It drains me dry, but here they are, written for you.
Who am I kidding? These words are for me.
I don’t breathe air. I breathe words.
It’s as if my blood is ink,
pooling in by body until I release it.
I suffer through the pain as the words flow out of me,
barely surviving each time.’

Other poems are positive and enlightening like the one below (also a favorite of mine…)

The mirror of our soul reflects us,
showing us every part of ourselves.
But sometimes the light refracts,
shining a light on each imperfection.
Smash the mirror and look away.
Don’t believe what it says.
You know your worth.
Don’t believe a false version of yourself trying to betray you.’

I thoroughly enjoyed “Harnessing Darkness” by Caleb Woods. I asked previously how can you control darkness? Caleb did it by opening his heart and sharing his darkest and brightest through “Harnessing Darkness,” which in my opinion should be read by readers from all walks in life, because we all have darkness within.  A Five-star poetry collection!

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