A Mad Woman’s Voice is just over forty pages, and filled with the work of over two years of writing. This volume explores the act of finding one’s voice and realizing the ability to speak one’s truth. From coming out to exploring the death of loved ones, A Mad Woman’s Voice is a tiny peek into my life.
Hi there! Can you believe that in my nearly seven years of writing here, I’ve never joined a blog tour for an upcoming or recently published book?! I know, I know, I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around it too. Today I’m proud to present to you a review of the poetry collection A Mad Woman’s Voice + an interview with its author, Abigail Pearson!
Full disclosure: Not only did I receive a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, but Abi is also one of my online friends so I naturally wanted to help her promote her work! However, I’m determined to review it just as impartially as I would any other book.
Let’s jump right in! Review first. A rather informal one this time, because why not?
my immediate reaction.
Started reading this late at night because I was procrastinating bedtime. (I’m half asleep as I’m writing this part, lol.) I had little “!” reactions to the first few poems and then on page thirteen I had more of a “!!!!” reaction. Although I of course enjoyed the opening poems, I think Abigail really started hitting her stride with “Where’s My Voice?”
I love the variety of styles in this collection. None of it is traditional rhyming verse, as far as I remember, but even within the single subgenre of free verse she manages to do so much. “Of Petrichor and Golden Stars” is as different from “Mother of Bread” as “Mother of Bread” is different from “Tape Day.”
This is such a short collection, yet a very emotionally powerful one. Mental illness, queer identity, feminism, death, religion, relationships both romantic and familial – all these subjects and more can be found here.
my opinion a few days and some thinking later.
I spent a while turning the poems and their subjects over in my mind and eventually decided to reread the collection to see what details jumped out at me the second time around. Here is what I noticed:
I like that the poems aren’t sorted into categories. I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed some collections such as Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur and The Princess Saves Herself In This One by Amanda Lovelace where the poems were grouped by theme, but sometimes a change is nice. I never knew what was going to come next!
Reading the poems of someone you know – even if, like Abi and I, you have never met face-to-face – is very, very different from what I’m used to. Because we follow each other’s blogs and are friends on Facebook, I recognized some of the events, people, et cetera she talked about in her poems or was able to piece things together. So cool!
Since earlier this year, I’ve been on a huge poetry kick. I’m happy I picked up A Mad Woman’s Voice and I can’t wait to see what Abigail Pearson writes next!
In no particular order:
- “Where’s My Voice?”
- “Bra Burning”
- “To Be, Never Not Be”
- “I Will Make Myself Feel Better”
- “Grow and Die”
- “Grow Up”
- Slow, sure, sweet girl you are my flame. [“Of Petrichor and Golden Stars”]
- Man in the sky / take my heart before it takes me [“The Woman Called Mad”]
- I talk about my marriage in the shower / in little whispers we talk about being queer but looking straight [“Where’s My Voice?”]
- I’m angry because being classified as an angry feminist is a bad thing / because look no one takes me seriously if I’m not angry [“I Am Angry (A Manifesto)”]
- So before hitting that send button / stop and think / ‘have I even said hello?’ [“Stop”]
- Leave my rotted face / out to dry / hang my bits / side by side. [“Circumcision”]
- Will you tell me why / My parts are banned / And locked away? / What was it they did wrong? [“Flaunting Parts”]
- I’d ingest flowers for you my girl / I can keep the sweetness down for later [“Bra Burning”]
- 4. Holes. / bagels. sinks. open bottles of beer. pussy. lakes. the letter o. [“I Will Make Myself Feel Better”]
These are some intensely personal poems! I would imagine that writing them was emotionally draining. Which ones were most difficult?
One of the hardest poems to write was “Your Brother.” I wrote that only a month or so after the death of my baby brother. It was one of the moments where his death hadn’t really hit me until I saw my mom’s text telling me she was having a really hard time. And then suddenly it all became so real.
I hadn’t been able to attend the funeral, though I was there at his birth, so I think that’s why it didn’t seem as real to me. After I saw that text all I could think of was my mom’s words and what those meant, and I didn’t know what to say back to her, but after a day or two I wrote that poem and that helped me.
Are there any poems in this collection that stem less from your own experience and are more imaginative?
The poem that instantly comes to mind is “Circumcision.” The idea of it came from reading an article about female genital mutilation and I was so horrified by it I had to write a poem just to get out all my feelings.
“Dear Mom and Dad” is a coming-out poem directly addressed to your parents. How did they react to it?
The finished version of this poem is one that my parents haven’t read yet (to my knowledge), though they do have a copy of my book. “Dear Mom and Dad” was inspired by an email that I sent them when I came out, and eventually I decided to turn it into a poem. To the email they responded much better than I had feared, and although they weren’t happy about it, they didn’t condemn me or cut me off from the family as I feared they might.
In the dedication, you thank two people – “Grant & A” – for helping you find your voice. How do they support your writing?
Grant has always been my number one supporter as my life partner and also as a fellow writer. He and “A” both believed in me when I didn’t, and showed me how to believe in myself. Grant is there when I need a critique or words of inspiration. And although I’m no longer friends with “A”,” the times she did encourage and push me meant the world to me, and helped me realize that I could actually write, which is why I left her in the dedication.
Where does the title of this collection come from?
The inspiration from the title came from being diagnosed with depression and anxiety last year, and realizing that I wasn’t just emotional, I wasn’t going insane, and I did have a voice. Growing up I knew I had undiagnosed issues, and I knew I needed help with some things, but I didn’t know how to put into words what was wrong.
Going through therapy this last year while being supported by friends and family helped me so much. And I wanted to take ownership of the word “mad.” I wanted to take ownership in my feelings and tell myself my feelings were valid. Thus A Mad Woman’s Voice was born.
Do you have a writing routine?
I like to wake up around 9-9:30 and get straight to work. I start with a blog post because that only takes up about a half hour, and I try to keep the posts between 300-400 words. After that I answer work emails, or go through anything for my magazine Cauldron Anthology. Then I work on poetry or whatever novel I’m currently caught up in writing.
Why and how did you begin writing poetry?
I began writing poetry around three years ago. I read “Just Kids” by Patti Smith and was inspired to try writing something other than novels. I had been writing fiction since the age of thirteen, but now I wanted to push myself and my writing skills. From there fell I in love with the genre and style. I was also able to take an online class on poetry writing soon after and that really helped me decide how I wanted my poetry to sound. I never imaged I would ever be a poet, but here I am now, and I love it.
Which poets inspire you?
Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, & Topaz Winters are the poets I come back to every time. They never fail to inspire me.
What are your writing goals for the rest of the year? Do you have any major projects already lined up?
At the moment I’m starting a third book of poetry titled Maybe Not Her which is going to be a collection of love poems. I’m also in the middle of two novels, one of which I’m editing and hope to start querying by the new year, and the other one I’m only four thousand words into. All of these I’m hoping to have finished by this time next year.
about the author.
Abigail Pearson is a 22-year-old writer and lover of fiction and poetry. She likes to write from the comfort of her couch, where her tea, cat, or library books are easily accessible. Last year she co-wrote a collection of short stories titled What It All Means, and she and her partner hope to continue writing together for many years to come. A Mad Woman’s Voice is her second collection of poetry.
A Mad Woman’s Voice was published on August 10, 2017. Want to learn more about Abigail Pearson or buy a copy of her book? Check out the links below!