I don’t need to pay a therapist to uncover the sources of my anxiety.
When I was in half-day kindergarten, I was stung by a bee at recess. When my Aunt Betty showed up to take me home, I told the school I had no idea who she was. Later that same year, the mother of a classmate was supposed to pick me up from day care in the morning to take me to a classmate’s birthday party. The mother forgot to pick me up and I was the only one in the class who did not go to the party. (My Aunt Betty would not have forgotten to pick me up, but apparently, there was no way I was getting into a car with her.) See, no need to pay a trained therapist thousands of dollars. What is worth paying for, and much cheaper, is “Love Poems (for Anxious People)” by John Kenney.
I certainly recognize that anxiety and stress at this particular moment can be crippling, but if we allow ourselves a little joy in our home-bound days, these poems go great with happy hour or before bed. Although if you stress about dying in your sleep, then you might want to skip some of the poet’s dialogues with his subconscious in the wee hours of the morning. Spoiler alert: the subconscious wins.
This is Kenney’s third collection of poetry in the “Love Poems” series and my lone criticism is that the time to read the poems in “Anxious People” goes by too quickly in a world where we are desperate to stretch periods of enjoyment to their greatest length. There is a reason that stay-at-home orders have resulted in increased readership of “Ulysses,” although that is probably more out of failed college literary course aspirations than enjoyment. Fear not, “Love Poems (for Anxious People)” is the antithesis of “Ulysses.” Consider this excerpt from “Job interview thank-you note”:
Thank you again
for taking the time
to meet with me this morning.
And also respecting my schedule
by cutting our thirty-minute interview
to just seven minutes.
I am glad you were able to see
in that remarkably short window
how much I would love the opportunity
to work for your company.
Needless to say, the interview did not go well. Nor did the first date. Nor did the eulogy. Nor the line at the memorial service. Nor the restaurant without the favorite IPA. Nor the search of WebMD, but when does that ever go well?
This is a collection of poems rooted in the day-to-day minutiae of life’s little stressors. Kenney is able to capture these moments with a comedic salve. There may have never been a moment when we’ve needed these more. Just like the daily affirmation app tells us: “Today is going to be a great day.” And Kenney, like us, knows that it is not.