Book Review: Anatomy, by Jamie Trower

‘this is my disability.
there are thousands like it,
but this one is mine’

cv_anatomyAnatomy is about falling – and getting back up again. But this is no slight stumble. Trower was nine years old when he sustained a severe brain injury, falling onto ‘that BLOODY rock’ when skiing. The fall is literal and mythical. Trower is angel and superhero, ‘Boy Wonder’, shaken from his ‘cloud nine’ and emerging in a world of darkness, speechlessness and foreign anatomy. The trajectory we ride out with him is excruciating and alienating, with struggles both physical and internal. There is retrospection, and an agonised rehashing of trauma. There is escapism – ‘Just wanted to fly away from / everything’, and full frontal confrontation. We are often forced to sit in a state of dissonance. It is uncomfortable but real. It is Jamie Trower’s disability, not ours, but we have front row seats.

Trower’s poetry is pared down and vital. Spaces between words, indeed even between letters, speak to us as loud as the poetry itself. Ampersands lend to a feeling that this poetry has pace, a sort of frenzied notation. Parentheses offer us asides, and add context to the immediate poem. It is Jamie Trower’s disability – not ours. As such, we are the outsiders peering in, and Trower is the gatekeeper, providing clues and captions to bridge the experiential divide.

Anatomy is sometimes ‘a love letter to disability’, sometimes a lamentation to a youth derailed. Sometimes, from our front row seats, we can feel the spittle of Trower’s rage – ‘big BLOODY broken skulls’, the ‘BLOODY awful wheelchair’. But Trower’s work is also a recognition of the tenderness of injury, the rediscovered beauty in the world. And it is a eulogy for the ‘unknown soldiers’, the other children at the Wilson Centre, where he lived out a rehabilitation.

This is a collection with a hopeful end. Trower flips disability on its head. ‘You will see disability / as a strength, / disability as spirited’. Trower comes to a junction, a critical point ‘when I realised that I wasn’t alone in the / world’, a time when he transcends his ‘coma anatomy’, and will fly back to his ‘cloud nine’.

Jamie Trower’s debut collection is fierce and untamed. It is inspirational without adjunct soppiness. It is not self-help. It is not glorification. But it may just startle its reader into fresh self-assessment.

‘once there was a boy
& he called himself bird,
& he had christmas tree lights
on the tips of his fingers
so he could find his
light through the darkness’

Review by Elizabeth Morton

by Jamie Trower
Published by Makaro Press
ISBN 9780994106988