By Blair Scott
Impersonating Emotion (2015) is a collection of poems written by Canadian author, Jack Blare. The poems are heavily centered on the themes of pain; self-loathing; frustration; anger; alienation; drug addiction; mental health issues; complicated dynamics with friends; and love, as well as the loss of love. Blare’s intelligent, raw, and wittily-crafted expressions of life lived on the edge of drugs and mental health deterioration capture the essence of desperation. Although most of the poems reside on the dark, solemn side of perspective, a few are very subtle, yet heart-warming glimpses into hope that he portrays beautifully. One central dilemma that the reader can draw from his words is the tragedy of understanding one’s limitations, but not being able to control or stop the pain.
Blare tells his story through a candid lens that does not hold back any emotion; he does not filter what he has to say to the world; his friends; his family; his ex-girlfriend. The pain reveals itself like a mirror image of real experience, as if you are reading Blare’s personal journal.
The poems employ abstract technique without abandoning accessibility. The symbols and metaphors he uses are appropriate illustrations of his message, and heighten the reader’s connection with the emotions being expressed.
Blare cleverly draws on the poetic device of contrast, which helps to emphasize the catharsis of his expression; the reader is taken on a roller coaster ride of extremes. He also experiments with the French language in some poems, including “Roast the Pig,” and “Black November (Novembre Noir).” Although the translation does not reflect smooth English, it adds satirical playfulness to the book. In addition, he explores more complex, strict forms of poetry, such as the haiku, in his collection of poems titled, “Haikus for Hank Williams,” and “More Haikus About Death & Orgasms.”
Blare desperately argues that finding one’s way in life is extremely difficult under the weight of daily drug battles and severe mental health struggles. The clarity of his arguments is often buried under layers of self-destructive torment and dismissive depression. His poems are cathartic expressions of his internal hunger for justice, and war against personal demons. He also argues that it is hard to be understood by those around you, emphasizing the stigma and blame projected onto him, and deeply internalized. He explains that it is difficult to balance the expectations of relationships with the reality of his suffering; from the poem, “Going Blank,” he says:
“Your dream of manicured lawns, shiny, polished mailboxes…
But I bleed silently under smiles, exhausting façade covering the pain hurt & anger.”
Blare feels that the pressures of society further contribute to the alienation and self-depreciation felt by a young man dealing with addiction, depression, and anxiety. We can conclude that drugs are a strong feature of Blare’s self-destruction, but the origin of his suffering resides in mental and emotional conflict.
Blare is highly successful in accomplishing what he set out to do with his poetry. His selected diction is seamless throughout; he has a wide-ranging, creative sense of vocabulary. But he also knows when to appropriately insert language that is more bold and to-the-point, such as swear words or simple sentence fragments that perfectly capture all that needed to be said.
The most notable success of his writing is his depiction of love and betrayal. Blare realistically depicts the blur of pain, anger, and confusion that he feels when he loses his love to one of his best friends. It is a highly controversial subject that raises a lot of questions in the reader’s mind regarding morality. The reader can feel the raw, unfiltered emotion during these segments, and the tone of his voice suggests a retention of these feelings from those that have hurt him.
From “Positively Pill Box”:
“She & I, virginity, two & a half years
Of lies from both parties.
I was devoted…
Fuck fuck fucking her is my close friend.
I want it to end, I want to end! Get the fuck out of my fucking head!”
From “Going Blank”:
“Two & a half years together wiped out in one afternoon.
I don’t want your fucking lead poison pity,
When I watch you go to fuck
One of my closest friends.
…Trying to kill the pain & strangle every memory of that two & a half years.”
Perhaps of all forms of writing, poetry is the most difficult to critique. After reading Impersonating Emotion, I gather that Blare is a seasoned writer with exceptional insight into how to depict the complex array of emotions that humans feel within and in relation to the world around them. Perhaps the work is not for everyone, on the premise that it details a lot of self-destruction, drug-use, and suicidal feelings. The only criticism I can draw out is the subjective nature of the content itself.
Blare writes his poetry with purpose and intention in a creative way that genuinely releases emotion. His poems contribute to a meaningful cause by promoting awareness of mental health issues and drug addiction.
Blair Scott is a Professional Writing student at Algonquin College, who loves writing poetry. In recent times, she has become interested in the analysis of various sources of health literature, and how consumers come to terms with this multitude of information. Blair currently works at a health food store, but aspires to become a freelance contract writer and editor.