‘Friendly’ shows the melting pot of misery that is mental illness

Poetry/photography zine, Emily Bueckert, 34 pgs, emilybueckert.com, $5

Don’t fall for it; the title is a trick. “I wish I was friendly,” says Emily Bueckert on page one. “This is why I am not!” On the next page, the first poem opens with “I threw up on the sidewalk.”

Bueckert’s situation doesn’t improve much, as Friendly progresses: “When I hold fruit it rots,” she states. “No matter where I’m going… I feel sick with lost chance but what I’ve lost I have no idea.” We’re joining her on a downward spiral as she unravels her last few threads of optimism.

Though it’s tempting to join Bueckert in her apparent amusement at this state of affairs (“I’m sometimes attracted to the idea of eating an ash tray for breakfast”), she’s plainly illustrating the toll that real mental illness can take, whether it’s actually her own, or fictitious. The “I” in these poems can’t envision a scenario in which anything might work out in their favour.

Dig deeply enough into this melting pot of misery, and you’ll find an abundance of dexterous metaphor and imagery. At her most memorable, Bueckert writes in skin-crawling detail about others claiming ownership of her teeth: “I throw up again… I’ve had fingers shoved in my mouth to get me to stop talking. They pet my molars. They say hello remember me?… There is not enough ginger in the world.”