Incredibly personal, startlingly reflective, and refreshingly inventive, Triny Finlay’s new poetry collection from Icehouse Poetry (an imprint of Gooselane Editions) is an immersive and beautifully crafted account of a Finlay’s struggle and experience with mental illness.
Myself a Paperclip oscillates between the thoughts and experiences of the speaker and the world of the psychiatric ward. Icehouse writes that, in this collection, “memories, musings, echoes, and meditations on stigma coalesce: quarters dispensed into a payphone to listen to the stunned silence of a partner; Splenda packets and rice pudding hoarded in dresser drawers; counting back from ten as electrodes connect with the temple.” Finlay herself writes at the end of the collection that the text “focuses on my experiences with debilitating mental illnesses and some of their treatments, including hospitalizations in psychiatric wards, psychotropic medications, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT), and Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)” (77).
It is difficult to succinctly review or sum up a poetry collection like Finlay’s, but suffice it to say that the poems here are poignant, imaginative, and heart-wrenching. Finlay demonstrates a mastery of language here that I have only encountered in some of the strongest poetry collections. Her experiences, while harrowing at times, are also deeply familiar. The core themes of this book—alternately trusting/being trapped in your own mind, distrusting those around you, questioning the limits of the body and the self—resonate with readers of this collection. The form of the collection—built around long and short poems, fragmentation, and back-and-forth dialogue structures, was also an innovative way to formulate the collection.
While the collection as a whole clearly works to form a unified whole, I had a handful of standout favourites that I felt exemplified the collection’s themes and resonated with me personally. Additionally, however, these poems are simply beautiful and Finlay’s work with imagery and metaphor is truly commendable. Favourites for me included “Adjusting the Psychotropics”; “#MeToo, and You, and You, and You, Too”; “Advice to the Mentally Ill from the Queen Bee”; and “Rejected Embroidery Projects.”
I highly recommend Myself a Paperclip for anyone interested in queer poetry and Canadian writers.
Content Warnings: Trauma, rape, sexual abuse, mental illness.
Rachel Friars is a writer and academic living in Canada, dividing her time between Ontario and New Brunswick. When she’s not writing short fiction, she’s reading every lesbian novel she can find. Rachel holds two degrees in English literature and is currently pursuing a PhD in nineteenth-century lesbian literature and history.