How Best to Stage a Breakdown is H. M. Reynolds’ first chapbook release; made up of only nineteen poems, the collection is a succinct treatment of struggling with mental illness and the feelings of panic, grief and loss which often accompany a breakdown.
Reynolds does not trivialise experiencing any of the above. The eponymously titled opening poem, which likens anxiety to an alarm clock, immediately demonstrates how mental breaks pervade our ‘normal’ and eventually seek to rule us and how we live. Poems such as ‘Neurasthenic’ and ‘Adherence to Ignorance’ explore the fear and darkness which begins to almost breathe alongside you.
Reynolds’ poems are also incredibly raw and honest; oftentimes many revealed the jaunty mechanics of a psyche trying to cope, to live, and to make sense of the imbalances – chemical and emotional. Thus, maybe to those who are privileged not to have experienced mental illness, this collection might feel alien in their hands. Reynolds’ writing spans the bitterness and anger she has felt towards medical professionals as well as towards people she loved, and towards herself. At no point does Reynolds proffer tangible hope and for this I believe she is incredibly brave.
How Best to Stage a Breakdown is a snapshot of a time and it is best read in this way. Much like Plath’s collection, Ariel, it is a selection which encapsulates incredible darkness but also the very human desire to reveal all of the edges and empty spaces within that darkness.