Caroline Kaufman's debut poetry collection begins with a dedication to "anyone terrified that it won't get better." These poems, she writes, "are proof that it will."
Now a college freshman, Kaufman began writing poetry at 13 to help her cope with depression. She started an Instagram account--@poeticpoison--that has more than 200,000 followers. Light Filters In is a mix of both new and old poems, a four-part journey through adolescence. In an author's note, Kaufman makes readers aware that "this book was not easy to write," and thus, "it may not be easy to read." She warns that the topics include "mental illness, self-harm, suicide, recovery, sexual assault, abusive relationships, violence, and other issues that may not be the easiest to swallow."
Generally eschewing capital letters, Kaufman's poems are short and full of emotion. The first part focuses on her depression and anxiety: "I am crowded/ in an empty room./ I guess it's the silence,/ the emptiness,/ the nothingness./ it pushes on me./ it tells me you take up too much/ space." In the second, she begins to address the mental illness, learning how to cope. The third part depicts the desire for growth and change: "I want to be a doctor./ maybe a surgeon./ how nice it would be/ to go from cutting my own skin/ in order to harm,/ to cutting someone else's skin/ in order to heal." And in the final chapter, Kaufman begins to heal. "lost:/ depression..../ if found:/ please tell her/ she is not welcome here." Black-and-white illustrations throughout heighten the emotions expressed.
Kaufman's poems are raw portrayals of mental illness and trauma, of healing and hope--they are very personal struggles laid bare in a way that speaks to the universal human experience. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness