Review of ‘What I Meant When I Said I’m Fine’ by Hazel Gahagan

When someone asks how you are, what’s your reply? You probably say “I’m fine”, regardless of how you’re feeling. This collection of excellent poems manages to be both personal to the author and have a universal perspective. Anyone who has experienced anxiety, overwhelm, pain, grief, fear, new diagnoses, or any other challenges to their mental health will find both recognition and comfort in these poems. There is both darkness and light in this collection and I really admire how authentic the expression is. The overall message of this book, at least what I took from it, is that it’s OK to open up and talk about how you’re feeling, even if you’re not fine. Taking a courageous look at what’s going on in your head, talking to someone about it, or even writing it down, are steps towards hope and recovery.

Book cover of What I Meant When I Said I'm Fine by Hazel Gahagan

The poems all have one-word titles, such as ‘Futility’, ‘Cursed’, ‘Blossom’, ‘Martyr’, ‘Doubt’, ‘Ethereal’ and ‘Sensory’. The imagery is effective without being overdone, while the formats of the poems are varied for interest and the occasional use of internal rhyming is sophisticated. I’d definitely recommend this collection even if you’re not much of a poetry reader. Congratulations to the author on a stunning debut.

Independently published in 2022.

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