Curing my Venom by A. Rinum review

Hi everyone! This is a first for me: my first review of a poetry collection! Poetry is quite a tricky subject for me to write about; whilst I studied it at University and spent many, many hours pouring over literary criticism on the subject, I’ve never given my own opinions about a particular poem or collection. The main reason for this is I worry that I don’t understand or misinterpret it, more so than any other type of literature. But since it is National Poetry Month and the author very kindly sent me a copy of her collection, I thought I would overcome my worries and review Curing my Venom. The collection is split into five parts, each representing a stage of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Rinum focuses primarily on mental health and the challenges that occur with illness, but also mentions more positive aspects like self-acceptance.

Rinum’s language and word choice are excellent. The images she creates are very evocative and poignant; one can picture them so clearly. The repetition of certain images as well helps to emphasise Rinum’s meaning and keeps them at the forefront of the reader’s mind, for example poison is frequently used to represent mental illness. However, one of my favourite poems from the collection ‘What was I?’, uses nature as a way to explore depression and the highs and lows it causes. Sometimes one feels on top of the world and almost invincible and other times sadness seems to be the only thing that ever and will exist. The natural world is used to reflect the ‘world’ of the mind and I think Rinum deals with those two contrasting thoughts beautifully.

Rinum is also very playful with form. Some poems rhyme, others don’t (and admittedly I found some of the rhymes a bit forced and didn’t really work when reread) which helps to keep the reader engaged, as well as the lengths varying greatly. Some are short and sharp whilst others go into more depth. There is even one poem (‘Downside Up’) which is upside down, highlighting the effect mental illness can have on our perspective of the world.

The illustrations by Fatima Munir are also well done. They are highly detailed black and white designs, but they don’t overpower the words and compliment the poems really well. It means the collection is this curious blend of imagery and words which combined create a very striking piece of work.

As you can imagine, Curing my Venom is not the cheeriest collection you may ever read, and most of the happier poems are in the fifth and final section. Some hit a raw nerve with me so I had to skip to a happier one straight after, and whilst it a short read I did have to stretch it out a few days so I didn’t feel overwhelmed. But the language and drawings are very beautiful. A really interesting debut and one for people interested in poetry. Or perhaps those looking to get back into it; I’m certainly curious to read more  after finishing this.

Curing my Venom is published independently and you can find more information here.

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