Reviewed by Jenny Bray
First things first, when this book arrived I found it aesthetically pleasing that the packaging was perfectly co-ordinated with highlights on the front cover! It arrived in a shiny pinky purple jiffy bag which accentuates the colours on it’s cover, drawing out the similar colour that highlights some of the detail on the front page. The cover actually has very little of the same colour on, but the jiffy bag colour really brought it out and I loved the overall dark green shade of the cover. (The pictures really don’t do the colouring on the cover justice.)
On to the book itself; this is a book of poems that have been put together by Rachel Kelly, who is a Sunday Times bestselling author. Rachel Kelly is a writer and a mental health campaigner and ‘an advocate for the therapeutic power of poetry’. She has published several other books and is an ambassador for several mental health and wellbeing related charities. She introduces the book and includes some detail around how poetry has helped her psychological wellbeing and has a healing power. In sharing the poems and arranging them by season she hopes to help other’s wellbeing and also to highlight that it’s perfectly acceptable to have a variety of different feelings, including both highs and lows, both of which are equally valid.
A quote from Rachel Kelly’s introduction is as follows; ‘My enjoyment is almost a physical one… Sometimes there is almost an electric shock of recognition when I read a poem: the hairs on my arms will stand on end… If there is no reaction… I simply move on to the next poem that does connect with me. Please feel free to do the same.’ This really resonates with me, as I feel this way about music and songs, which can elicit a physical reaction. My coping mechanism when going through some hard times as a teenager was to write songs, which aren’t so different from poems, so I can also relate to the link with emotions. I also love immersing myself in a good book and engrossing myself in the storyline to forget about my surroundings. I kept to this quote when reading some of the poems, which I didn’t instantly take to, so flicked to the next one.
The poems are grouped by season with each season having a different tone; Winter – time for sadness, Spring – time for hope, Summer – time for joy and Autumn – time for reflection. Each poem is printed and Rachel then reflects on the meaning. Spring includes ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ by Oscar Hammerstein II – the one the title is taken from and also the one that definitely can’t be read without effectively singing it in your head.
All the poems are fairly short and Rachel’s comments are also kept quite brief, meaning that this is a book that can easily be picked up just for a few pages and then left until reaching for it again. As each poem is unique and you know which season and mood it is linked to, it is one of those books where you can successfully hop around the pages depending on your mood, rather than read it strictly from cover to cover in a linear way.
Some of the poems are from well known poets such as Keats, Wordsworth and Cummings, well known names such as Abraham Lincoln and Emily Brontë and others are from less well known ones (although my knowledge of famous poets stopped accumulating upon leaving education!) Their biographies are in a section towards the end of the book.
There is also a section towards the end of the book titled ‘Enhancing Your Enjoyment of Poetry’ where Rachel Kelly provides ideas around reading, memorising and writing poetry and then ‘selecting individual inspiring lines of poetry’. The reading poetry section states, ‘Start with the belief that poems can be a source of wisdom and beauty, open to anybody. Look at them as simply a way individuals have found to better convey moods and feelings that, can sometimes be so hard to pin down or find the right words for.’ She also goes on to mention that due to the way some poems are worded, they can be like reading a song. Again, this is something I really feel with poetry. Songs and music have the ability to make me emotional and I find that the poems I enjoy the most are those I can almost read and imagine them being sung. The short section around writing poetry encourages the reader to try poetry as a way to express feelings and emotions.
The content and individual pages are well laid out with sensible gaps and spacing and floral and foliage illustrations. It leaves no illusion that it is a book of poetry and aids with the feeling that it can be picked up for short bursts, which may be exactly what is needed if using the poems to aid mental wellbeing.
I especially like that the author, Rachel Kelly, is not a poetry expert (her own admission), so her explanations don’t read as if you’re back studying GCSE English Literature. They are much more down to earth and relatable, as are all the sections written by her. Her words on the back page are the best summary; ‘With this book by your side, you will feel comforted when times are tough and cheered when they are joyful.’ However, the most interesting aspects of this book are the authors additions, to really aid with this.
Obviously, if you hate poetry this book probably isn’t going to be right for you, but if you either already like poetry or are even slightly undecided about it, then this is a gentle introduction to poems grouped together to link to specific moods, so you already know which section to go to if reading them for wellbeing reasons. It isn’t a book I’d have thought to have bought for myself but is one I’d recommend as a gift for someone, maybe for Mother’s Day as that is coming up or as an alternative Easter present. As I mentioned at the start of my review, I found the actual book aesthetically pleasing, so it would likely go down well to unwrap from pinky purple wrapping paper as an eye catching gift.
Rating: I rate it 4.5/5
You’ll Never Walk Alone Poems for life’s ups and downs by Rachel Kelly RRP is £16.99. It is currently available to purchase from Amazon for £10.21 here.
When checking the link for amazon for this book I was inspired to purchase another of the author’s books; Walking On Sunshine: 52 Small Steps to Happiness so look forward to receiving that soon.