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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.