Poetry - General
89 Pages
Reviewed on 04/02/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite

Anxious(ed) by A.W. Karen is a collection of the author's original poetry over eleven years, beginning this published volume with work from the age of fourteen through to the age of twenty-five, although the poet has been composing from an earlier age, and for longer. Between the covers are seventy distinct and interconnected pieces that have been ordered chronologically by the author's age at the time of the experience. These experiences all revolve around the diagnosis of anxiety, its impact, and the coping mechanisms, if any, that shaped Karen's work. The poetry served as an outlet for Karen who channeled feelings onto the page because, as those that have anxiety know, there is rarely someone to talk to. Anxious(ed) is Karen's profoundly honest retelling to the world.

One of the most incredible aspects of reading work composed incrementally over a decade is that a reader can see the maturation of a writer in what feels like real time. It's clear from the early work in Anxious(ed) that A.W. Karen is uniquely talented, but to be able to witness this in one book is very special. It is also heartbreaking because even though the writing grows and evolves, the suffering Karen describes only shows how much more confusing and painful it can be as the years go by but the anxiety does what it wants on its own time. The standout to me is the poem When I Cry, written by Karen at 19. It depicts a girl on the floor of her closet, curled up and crying, unable to fix the pain and unable to divert attention away from it with self-harm; not because she is afraid of hurting herself, but because of the pain it causes other people. It is unbelievably emotional and while I cannot reach out to its author at the age of 19 and embrace them, I can tell the author now that their work is beautiful. That this book is worthy. That they are exceptional and I am grateful for their courage in sharing the journey. Very highly recommended.

Pikasho Deka

A.W. Karen started writing poetry at the age of 12. Battling with anxiety, she turned to writing and used it as a coping mechanism to deal with the stress and rigors of everyday life. Anxious(ed) is a collection of intimate poems penned by Karen from the age of 14 to 25. These enthralling poems are inspired by Karen's own life experiences and tell the story of a young girl growing up into adulthood, facing numerous hurdles along the way. Karen's poems examine the pressures and problems of being a teenager diagnosed with anxiety, trying to live up to high expectations, overcoming self-doubt and self-loathing, being depressed and hopeless, losing a loved one, and much more.

Anxious(ed) is a poignant poetry collection that will strike a chord with anyone who has struggled during their teenage years. A.W. Karen has a mastery over her craft and pens some thought-provoking verses that make you introspect and leave you with something to contemplate. The broader narrative feels like an exploration of the human condition in all its myriad of aspects. There is a personal touch to Karen's verses that add a deeper layer of depth to the poems and make you feel connected to the relevant subject matter. I personally related to some of the issues touched upon in her poetry. "From Life to Dust" and "Asphyxiation of the Mind" were two of my favorites from the collection. Anxious(ed) is a gem of a book for poetry enthusiasts and one that I will highly recommend.

Savannah Aldridge

Written over eleven years, Anxious(ed) by A. W. Karen is a poetry collection about living with anxiety and depression. The poems showcase the internal battles of chronic mental illness. Each section is preceded by a brief introduction that includes the poet’s age when the piece was written and a snippet of what was happening in her external world during that time, from losses and worries to new experiences and hopes. Stylistically, the poems are as varied in form as they are in expression - some are as short as four lines, while others extend to a second page, some rhyme and others do not. The collection utilizes images that, while honest about the weight and pain of mental illness, present the reader with a tactfully-constructed story of suffering and persevering without detailing the triggers relating to depression and anxiety.

I was immediately won over by A. W. Karen's Anxious(ed) as a literary companion for walks through the dark night of the soul. The poet welcomes the reader to her work with honesty and an accurate taste of the wide depth of emotions (or lack thereof) that lie ahead. What caught me most as a reader was her gift for expressing the rawness of despair and wrestling against oneself without graphic imagery. I believe the most unique and enthralling element of this collection is watching the poet’s work transform and mature over a decade, with steps forward and returns to pain, along with changes in style, together with a powerful, distinct voice. When the book wraps up, it is with the balance of brilliant hope and an acknowledgment of the continued presence of turmoil that can only be pulled off by one who has known what it is to battle mental illness. This collection has joined my list of books to turn to as a reminder that no one is ever alone in the most isolating of experiences.