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Breath & Shadow

Fall 2017 - Vol. 14, Issue 4

"The Mechanisms of a Poet: Book review of Defense Mechanisms"

written by

Erin M. Kelley

Poetry has a way of beautifully awakening the senses. It does so in a way that the writer becomes aware of what’s inside him or her. In turn, the reader can step into the writer’s world – free of any boundaries or pre-conceived notions – and perhaps even gain a new perspective.

In Defense Mechanisms, published in December 2016, author Jessica Goody creatively puts these observations on display. It not only serves as a solid platform for her debut collection of poetry, but it also gives readers a unique glimpse into the challenges of living with cerebral palsy. The book showcases seventy-five original poems and is divided into three sections: Being Handicapped, Green Sentinels, and Other Voices. Each section is devoted to a different aspect of Goody’s personal experiences with CP, thus, giving readers an even more profound look at her life.

Each poem paints a vivid picture which contributes to something larger. Each one speaks a valiant truth about the difficulties Goody faces, while keeping them grounded and relatable to her audience. These poems are indeed about disability, but are written in such a way that makes readers feel human. Goody utilizes the art of language to not only convey the difficulties that come with having a disability, but to also show that vulnerability – in any form – is part of being human. The poems offered in this book are shining examples of how and why creativity should be used as a platform to cope with life’s biggest challenges. 

It is this technique that allows Goody to achieve a very real sense of universal understanding – an understanding that serves as a reminder the burdens of hardship, and the many ways in which humanity chooses to handle them. Goody also creates a sense of urgency with this collection of poems, which serves as a testament to the notion that creativity is the best defense against negativity, whether caused by society or if it’s the result of an individual situation. A prime example of this can be found in the poem entitled, “Starfish”, in the first section of the book:

    “Eventually sinew envelops the ragged wounds,
    rendering amputees as good as new, lacking a tell-tale scar,
   patiently convalescing, the way trees wait to bloom;
  biding time, a dimpled broken limb spreading 
 and stretching into the socket of the old.”

This level of consciousness lets readers know that the writer is alert and aware. In this case, it lets readers know Goody is strikingly aware of her disability, and what it may feel and look like to the outside world. It might even speak to a reader who doesn’t have a disability, which adds another layer to this body of work. By the same token, this particular stanza of this particular poem speaks to the title of the book itself. These lines lend themselves to the idea of trying to defend something, watching it get broken, and having to wait for it to mend.

The concept of defense is the heart and soul of Goody’s first full body of work. It’s a thoughtful collection of poetry and a call to the conscious, compassionate mind – all wrapped up into one cohesive package. All in all, Defense Mechanisms demands to be read with the same urgency as it is written, and shared with the same care and compassion as the ideas behind it.

Erin M. Kelly is the author of How to Wait, her debut collection of poetry. She enjoys writing in all genres. She was born with Cerebral Palsy and wants to be recognized for her work rather than her disability. Her work has been published by The Huffington Post, Upworthy, The Mighty, The Good Men Project, Wordgathering Poetry Journal, XoJane, and Oberon Magazine. She writes a monthly column entitled, “The View from Here,” for the local newspaper in Altoona, Pennsylvania, addressing the challenges she faces daily. Writing is her window to the world, giving the opportunity to bring what’s inside out. 

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