REVIEW OF HEARACHES, BY AVID BARD.
The content of Heartaches reflects exactly what its title denotes: a montage of painful moments. Of mental health, and mental illness. Of love and loss. Of unrequited love. Of racism. Of homophobia. Of aloneness. Of identity crisis. Many, if not all of us, can relate to these topics on some level.
In the past couple of months, I have been reading more and more poetry, much of which is specifically biographical poetry. Without knowing it, it seems as if I have been searching for something, some kind of connection to be found through other people’s words. There is something oddly cathartic about sharing your pain with someone, whether it is through talking or reading it on the page. That is what I felt when I read Heartaches. Though I could not relate to every experience, nor do I think it was necessary to, it was nevertheless, really refreshing to see that not everything in literature has to be uplifting or positive, only honest.
The poetry itself is poignant. Lord states in the introduction that this collection is not attempting to be academic, but that it is deeply personal. And true enough, Heartaches may be one of the most personal collection of poems I have ever read, and while I would advise readers to exercise caution as it may be triggering, I absolutely would recommend this eye-opening book to everyone.
What I love about this collection is that, even though each poem is well-written enough to be standalone, the structure of the collection creates an overarching narrative. Lord guides you through each juncture of his life, meticulously and almost surgically opening each of his wounds and traumas to the reader. They say that it is difficult to look away from an accident even if you want to because there is something fascinating about it, something drawing you back. Heartaches is no accident, but it is just a difficult to look away from.
Heartaches is perhaps one of the most visceral poetic experiences I have endured. Lord does not try to be pretentious, vague, or complex in his jargon. He manages to balance blunt honesty with a constant poetic rhythm. And while the writing style may come across heavy-handed at points, the raw pain and emotion behind each poem justifies that. It requires heaviness, pain, and more than a little bit of sadness.
Lord’s candidness about the darkest moments of his life – of suicidal thoughts and attempts, of hopelessness, of constant pain and trauma – is jarring. But it’s important. Because at the heart of Lord’s personal pain, there is a very harrowing reminder that racism and homophobia still very much exist in this world, no matter how much we would like to pretend they do not. In fact, it serves as an additional reminder that even though we do not always “see” racism and homophobia unfold, that does not mean it is not a systemic issue in society.
Many of us take our privilege for granted when we live in diverse spaces where acceptance and tolerance eclipse bigotry. Lord’s frank portrayal of his experience in the south, where he grew up a bi-racial, gay man, shatters the comfortable bubble many of us are living in.
AND I WELCOME IT.
It serves as yet another reminder of all the LGBTQ+ warriors that have come before us, and of the path they have paved for the current and future generations to live in a better world.
Lord makes very clear that though there are some saving grace moments – like moving forward from the past, breaking free from toxic relationships, and accepting himself for who he is – this collection is not necessarily about the light at the end of the tunnel. It is an unapologetically raw and often traumatic account of the harshness of life. Lord’s beautiful, dark writing is accompanied by beautiful, dark visuals that he himself has either drawn or photographed.