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‘The Constant Hum of Elsewhere’ by Jen Rouse

— Reneé Bibby

I have lived in very close proximity to people with mental health issues; it’s something in my life that is way too tender to write about. I’m just beginning to read about it. As an outsider, I witnessed the suffering, a fragmented and impartial reflection of an interior struggle; it was difficult enough to watch, I couldn’t fathom any foray into the inside.

Jen Rouse’s ‘The Constant Hum of Elsewhere’ eased me in. There’s a hint of the deep, emotional toll of struggling to be diagnosed and treated, but Rouse uses a frank and unabashed tone to detail the inner-workings of the narrator’s mind and reflection on experiences. She keeps the reader steady in the boat, from which vantage point we can lean over and see the churning, dark waters of feeling underneath. I was not upended by reading it—which is to say, trust a poet (trust any artist) to create exactly what we can bear to read. It took only a modicum of courage for me to read it and a world of courage to write it. As I spend more time exploring more art about mental health, I will always have a special place in my heart for Jen Rouse for getting me started.


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