“i will learn how to love a person and then i will teach you and then we will know”
In Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy a 23–year–old person attempts to explain to himself the possible origins, ends, and cures of anger, worry, despair, obsession, and confusion, while concurrently experiencing those things in various contexts including a romantic relationship, a book of poetry, and the arbitrary nature of the universe.
It was the title and genre that made me pick up this book. I’ve recently finished writing the manuscript for my poetry book, which is about anxiety. In my book, I hint at therapy: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
So, a book of poetry under the title of the therapy I received? Yes please.
On the cover is a scrawled drawing of a hamster, but this didn’t register with me and I didn’t realise how much hamsters would feature in this collection. I’m not entirely sure of their significance, but I think they are used as a substitute for human beings, to explore mental health issues like depression from a different angle. But I could be wrong.
The book is split up into four sections, and most of the poems are written as though they are stories in poem form. When the first hamster character appears, the poem runs on through several pages and doesn’t begin with a title. On the contents page, it is merely indicated by a dash and the page number.
In the main body of the book, there are no uppercase letters. This reminded me of contemporary poets such as Rupi Kaur and McKayla Robbin, whose collections are written in lowercase letters throughout. However, I would place this collection closer to the poet E. E. Cummings in how experimental and entertaining to read it is.
The tone of Tao Lin’s poetry is humourous but serious. It retains a distinctly ‘fun’ feel without losing the sense that his words are meaningful in a way that alters your perception of the world as you’re reading.
Some lines are written to elicit a laugh. Some written to evoke emotion and even tears. This book is subtle in its humour, and makes you smile while being appreciative of the deeper , more philosophical elements being explored.
It’s a book about life, identity, existence and, of course, hamsters. What’s not to love?
Tao Lin is undoubtedly a talented, witty and imaginative individual whose writing is nuanced in the most uplifting and thought-provoking way.
Link to the book on Goodreads: Cognitive Behavoiral Therapy