Poetry Review: We Walk Alone

by Mollie Ryan

This book will appeal to anyone who finds beauty in heartache. With its narrative being one of love and loss, We Walk Alone evokes a sense of nostalgia in its readers through the use of imagery and emotion. The book centers around the idea that although we may share the same road as others, we ultimately find ourselves alone in the end. The book as a whole is about how each of us longs for a sense of individuality while remaining a part of a whole. Wilson has stated that this message is perfectly exemplified in her poem We Walk Alone (26) (shocking, I know), which speaks on how we all wish for an outside source, especially a lover, to make us feel as though we have a companion for life’s journey, someone to overwhelm us with emotion in the best of ways. This poem then shifts, abruptly taking the reader to a dark place, a place that many see as being reality. Wilson’s final message in this poem and in this book as a whole is that although there are people who stand beside and light fires inside of us, at the end of our journey we find ourselves alone. However, finding oneself alone is not necessarily a bad thing. On the contrary, there is much beauty and value to be found in one’s solitude.

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Many of Wilsons poems are reminiscing over times where things felt good, whether that has to do with a lover, a toy, her childhood, or otherwise. In this book Wilson has mastered the art of capturing big concepts in small packages in a way that causes the reader to stop and think about the hidden complexity of her writing. Not only are some of the most powerful poems in this collection also the shortest (Thank You, Come Again (19) for example), but she manages to sneak big ideas into poems which on the surface may seem quite flavorless. Wilsons poems often come off as being very simple, but after rereading her poems a few times, I found many interesting similarities between them. A few themes that I noticed Wilson repeating were that of memories, the idea of consumption, temporary pleasure, finding pleasure in suffering, and last but certainly not least, loss.

Nearly every poem in this collection has to do with loss or memories, specifically memories that come back to haunt or memories of times when life seemed simple. Wilson often writes in past tense, assisting the reader in experiencing the memory as being in the past rather than the present or future. In The Devil Plays a Tune (49), she speaks of the devil in a feminine manner, and how the devil repeatedly unearths old pain which Wilson thought she had overcome or buried. The devil in this poem is romanticized by Wilson in a way that paints elegant and beautiful the ways in which the devil drowns you in your aching. Another example of Wilson romanticizing painful memories is in You’re Not Here (12), where she briefly recalls in a sleepy haze the memory of a lover who made her feel warm and happy, but in the end left her feeling empty, which is exactly how she felt upon waking from the dream. Wilson is constantly romanticizing painful memories and people, so much so that it almost leads the reader to think that she feeds off of self-destructive experiences, or that she did at points in her life. I believe that this is something that she knows many of her readers can relate to, with self-destructive behavior being a common thing that those who are heartbroken engage in. This can be exemplified in her poem One Night (46), where Wilson writes about her experience of the pleasure and excitement of a one-night-stand while admitting that this occurrence was an act of weakness. She says that the heat in that moment seemed to chase her demons away, but failed to keep them away. Many women (and men) use the pleasure of hook-ups and one-night-stands to temporarily rid themselves of their sorrows, allowing another to consume their body, ignoring the idea that afterwards they may find themselves feeling just as empty if not more so than they did to begin with. Wilson brings a sense of universal sorrow into her writing by romanticizing her pain and suffering, all the while remaining somewhat mysterious. She finds a way for her poems to relate to her readers, believing that “in everyone’s heart there is a soft, lonely tune that plays”. Some poems in this collection are like that of Girl on a Tire Swing (50), where she reminisces over her innocence as a child, her ability to be carelessly happy and unworried, with others such as The End of Daydreams (35) being about the end of such innocence and the emergence of the idea that one must live with themselves rather than rely on the company of others.  Many others, being most of the poems in this collection, are about lovers. These poems often contain happy as well as sad emotions, emphasizing that the pleasure that a partner brings to you is usually temporary and does not heal existing wounds, but may create new ones.

Throughout this collection of poems, the reader is made to feel nostalgic about times in their life which could be easily romanticized. Although the image of being alone in a room full of crowded people is quite cliché, Wilson captures this feeling in a way that doesn’t cause the reader to want to roll their eyes. While reading this collection, I noticed a good deal of the poems beginning in a light and happy tone, sometimes coming across as unrealistic and other times simply optimistic, before changing the tone to one that sometimes comes off as being realistic, and other times quite pessimistic. Wilson does a good job of keeping her reader alert and prepared for the revisiting of themes and shifts in her writing. I personally really enjoyed reading We Walk Alone, and plan to keep it tucked away for a day that I find myself needing to feel. Wilsons style of writing, with its ability to evoke intense emotion, is part of the reason I liked it so much. Another reason being Wilson’s willingness to touch on topics which many other authors choose to leave alone.

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