Many authors have turned to writing after suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), creating beauty and peace while ‘struggling with a torn mind’, as Karl Tearney phrases it so eloquently in the introduction to his collection of poems, Second Life.

A former pilot in the British Army Air Corp, Tearney joined up as a ‘boy soldier’ in the early 1980s. He served first in Northern Ireland, then in Bosnia, during the most turbulent of times. He and his peers witnessed things that still haunt him to this day and yet no one spoke of them, such was the image of the ‘macho soldier’ able to bear all. On his return home, he realised something was wrong. After he broke down one day, sobbing uncontrollably, he spent some time working on healing, eventually coming to the conclusion that he had to help himself. Tearney turned to words, writing his first poem about a willow tree; this image is referenced in the collection, most memorably in the last work dedicated to the tree.

Divided into three sections, My Mental Mind, Love and Moments, the more than seventy poems in Second Life cover a diverse range of subjects from ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’ itself and depression (‘Black dog’, ‘Tiny Door’) to works about nature.

Whether one has suffered or is suffering from PTSD, Tearney’s words resonate. In ‘End of Days’, the poet talks about ‘the devils’ who only come out at night, confessing that the ‘sunset brings fear’, and ‘Only sunrise sets me free / Come sunrise set me free’. In ‘Banshee’, he explores feeling worthless, ‘Empty / I feel empty / Coldness of winter within / Pointless / I feel pointless / No summer sun to break in’. The ‘Coastal Path’, conversely celebrates the countryside’s majesty and the comfort of ‘nature’s warmth’, while in ‘Birds’, he comments on the ‘splendour’ of the many different species we are privileged to enjoy.

An eclectic collection of poems, Second Life is testament to the courage of one man, his words honest, poignant, sometimes even heartbreaking, his language simple, his message pure. It’s perhaps no wonder then that Tearney’s work has received so many accolades; more importantly, it has helped so many. And isn’t that the absolute power of words? To help us find our voices, our truths.


Second Life | Karl Tearney | Fly on the Wall Press | 2019 | hardback | £10.99

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Acknowledgements: Poetry text © Karl Tearney 2019. This review is published as part of the virtual book tour – many thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours and the publisher for sending us a review copy. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved.

Also of interest: ‘Sylvia Plath interviewed in 1962‘; ‘Poems that make grown men cry‘; ‘I am half agony, half hope‘; ‘WB Yeats reading his own work, a rare pleasure’; ‘For love of words: Joe Nutt’s The Point of Poetry’; ‘You are what you read’; ‘Letters from the heart: our 20 best love letters’; Matt Johnson’s End Game; ‘We should all be feminists’; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’;RW Kwon’s The Incendiaries’; ‘Beauty in translation – Roxanne Bouchard’s French Canadian noir‘; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”’.

This review is © 2019 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Thank you so much.