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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Life never promises anything, but when life unloads a crippling disease on a person, what can one do to survive, to continue to live? Retired teacher Tricia Johnson was diagnosed with autoimmune disease. Its crippling prognosis makes one feel like they’re constantly dragging around a dead weight. “Tiredness that steals in mid-sip coffee and forces your head flat on counter?/ Tiredness that stops you in your tracks and screams/ Sit NOW!/ Lay down NOW!/ If you don’t/ I will force you by simply stopping, unmoving, unbending.” Even the words haunt the reader with the heaviness of the poet’s fatigue.
Undaunted by the symptoms of the disease, this poet took to her art, her poetry, to provide sustenance, to give her life meaning and purpose again; to explain what it’s really like to carry the burden of this disease. Whirl Away Girl is Tricia Johnson’s poetic journey through unrelenting, unexpected symptoms, a diagnosis, to living with what she has – life. “Never wanting to settle for too long/ She is change, she is happy for change.” With her power of words to express the journey, this poet explains and shares her feelings, her symptoms, her fears, and, ultimately, her joys, because, yes, even with a horrendous disease to wear your down, life still can be beautiful. “Lazy eyes take all of this bounty in/ Replenish the dry soul/ Restore the wounded body/ Healing in the green of summer.” The poems are mostly free verse, full of poignant metaphors and intense imagery. This is a very soul-searching, heart-wrenching, powerful collection of poetry.