Book: Sober Thoughts from the Crazy House
Author: J. Maxwell
Genre: Poetry, Self-Discovery
Review Copy: From the Author
Available on: Amazon.com
For Mental Health Awareness Month, I got the opportunity to read one of my favorite literary forms – poetry. J. Maxwell (Twitter @JMaxwell_Writer), author and illustrator’s debut poetry collection, Sober Thoughts from the Crazy House, is a candid evocation of his journey from mental health issues to a more sober approach to life.
One of the first steps to recovery, to solve issues permeating our lives, is to accept the situation and to seek help. J. Maxwell starts with the backstory of his struggles and how he overcame years of addiction and self-abuse. Words provided an artistic refuge. In searching for the words to express, Maxwell was seeking answers.
Many who have been lost and found their way will relate to the outpouring in the fluent verses. These words can be yours, mine – anyone who has grappled with self-doubt, self-disdain, guilt, shame, fear. You can imagine the poet scribbling on paper napkins and vagrant sheets, crumpled, torn at the edges, as he tries to find the meaning, define the terms in the textbook that are now a part of him. The anguish is palpable, yet with a glimmer of hope, for only those who seek shall receive.
The poems touch a vast array of experiences; hallucinations, anxiety, mania, depression, addiction, withdrawal, therapy. At a certain moment, I thought the formatting was juvenile, like children expanding alphabets to words in wordplay. However, each alphabet in Maxwell’s vocabulary dives into an intense experience with well-crafted interpretations. The words flow, each better than the next, sometimes rhyming, sometimes like the churning of an ocean, thoughts dripping from every nook, every crevice. Each thought more relatable than the next, some philosophical, some mundane but the currents strong enough to wash you away.
This is a book for those who can appreciate the beauty and depth of free verses. It can be perceived as a haven for the troubled mind, evolving from experiences in the “crazy house.” Maxwell’s poetic expressions are not only for those who want to know how they feel, how someone else in their position feels but also a must-have for caregivers and guides, for readers and learners. It is an insight into a mind filled with chaos, trying to find balance, all on its own, without reaching out for help.
When troubled souls can’t articulate, the sober writings from the recovering mind can be a guidebook. I find this to be a precious collection that I would recommend everyone to read because where thoughts overburden us only words can be saviors. I would have liked to see some illustrations along with the words, making it an immersive experience. I also found it hard to decipher the book cover* art work and would like some insight into it.
*The author reached out to me with a note: “The cover art is the underside of the bottom of a bottle. This was perfect since so many go looking for answers at the bottom of a bottle only to find there aren’t any. You have to get to the bottom to really find that out though.”
J. Maxwell’s work speaks of hope, of finding yourself, and of repeating the message:
Don’t judge yourself
Lest ye cast the first stone!