History of Present Complaint by HLR cleverly interweaves the terrifying past with the equally frightening present. HLR’s debut is brave and raw as she stoutly refuses to shy away from the palatable. This collection of poetry and prose transgresses boundaries and will evoke a deep-seated grief and ache within any reader.
HLR’s work focuses on dismantling the stigma surrounding psychosis in particular; her words are heartbreaking yet render an empowering and honest retelling of survival. There is pain embedded at every turn as her poetry and prose eviscerates viscerally and vividly. The power is to be found in how HLR’s courage and truth is an indictment of mental health care in the United Kingdom. The weaving of past and present complaints honestly reveals how exhausting and traumatising survival and illness become in amongst the red tape, disbelief, shame and sheer unprofessionalism rife within the public health sector.
The pieces within this collection combine brutal reality with stunning imagery to convey trauma, heartbreak and grief in a way which Plath’s The Bell Jar never achieved. HLR steers a sturdy course and never romanticizes mental illness. Her purposeful imagery and structural formatting is not gratuitous but explores the disassociation and obsession of a panicked mind, to reveal the frightening hold mental illness can have – as if being held hostage in your own body.
Often, I wish to quote from poetry collections to allow just a tiny taster of what is to come, but History of Present Complaint is a masterpiece to be read, savoured and experienced anew. This is not about spoilers but about preserving a collection in its startling and raw beauty. HLR is a marvel and I thank her for being here, for surviving, for continuing to draw breath and for courageously opening her wounds for us in this collection. HLR does not deny the difficulty of living but neither does she deny the astounding beauty of living, and I salute this.