Chapbook, Nick Loewen, 16 pgs, nloewen.com
This short autobiographical chapbook grapples with the author’s persistent feelings of listlessness and depression, and the tactics they use to overcome them. Nick Loewen writes, “My mind is fighting itself. The thing to do is to trick it into feeling ok, in the same way it can trick me into feeling like trash.” Loewen’s “tricks” centre on two main activities, making things and engaging with distracting alternatives, like exercising or listening to podcasts. On Ok itself is an attempt to capture those negative feelings, to reframe them through the little daily victories that “bring about the better days.”
Immediately obvious is the care Loewen put into the making of this chapbook. Its grey cardstock cover and matching grey pages invoke both the gloomy subject matter and the brain which houses that gloom. And yet, On Ok is held together with a cheerful pink thread, and could not exist without it. It suggests “making things” as a form of therapy, a methodical process helping Loewen to unwind, to create something positive out of his dreariness. The chapbook is illustrated by the author, and several white cards, adorned with phrases like “quiet victories,” are glued into the chapbook, further examples of making-as-medicine.
The last of these cards bears an important printer error. It says “the unsaid” in two layers of overlapping text, an asymmetrical twinning that obscures their legibility. As Loewen points out, this error makes “the cards themselves little examples of how the unintentional or unacknowledged can be beautiful.” Concluding the chapbook in this manner drives home his simple message: happiness can be built or reclaimed from unhappiness, and it’s the smallest gestures that combine to make this possible.