The idea of writing short poetry that conveys intense feelings isn’t new but has flourished through the internet especially as a method of sharing emotions with multitudes, often using a beautiful layout to evoke a feeling many of us can relate to.

Surely this move towards making poetry accessible to everyone is a good thing, but it can also be overwhelming if all you see are meme after meme with some kind of advice or rebellious statement. A. Shea always went far beyond this in her analysis of the world. She’s an insightful, gifted writer who seeks far beneath the surface in all that she writes, and manages in a remarkably short number of words, to really say a lot. I hugely admire that because it’s no small feat to say everything with a few sentences.

“They don’t own me…
the demons,
the dark seas,
the scars,
the disease.
They are just bullies
that my heart beats
every day.”

You feel she’s talking directly to you, rather than composing a poem. There is no separation of art and reader. Perhaps because of her background in psychology and the struggles in her own life, she has formed an immediacy in thinking that is particularly astute and evocative. I find reading her work is like having a short conversation, one that stays with me the rest of the day.

“Sometimes
I am frightened of tomorrow
of the ifs and the buts
of the shadow of this sorrow
of still being too much
yet I can cede to nothing”

Poetry began with the formation of rules and limits. Poetry can be long and convoluted, or short and spartan, but what it must always have, is meaning and that meaning must always transcend what prose can describe. I cannot imagine A. Shea’s work being prose, though at times it is close, it always has a finery of structure that belies prose alone. A. Shea knows how to wield words through her knowledge of language, and it is this which ensures her work is consistently among the most prized online and off.

“You think no one else understands
the depth of your sad song
until you open the window to let it out
and a thousand voices sing along”

What is remarkable about A. Shea is you would think all of this about her without knowing a thing about who she is. But when you know she is a chronically ill warrior with serious health conditions and a lifelong struggle, it only makes it more remarkable that she’s able to produce this quality of work consistently and with the passion and devotion she brings. Her reputation as a writer and compassionate human being, almost walk hand in hand, though either stand on their own merit. Perhaps through her own struggles, which are unfairly frequent, she has honed an understanding of the world that few of us possess. A confident, someone who whispers with you when you reveal your heart-ache, your fears. She is your sister, your mom, your best friend. If that is not the heart of a writer, I don’t know what is.

“Even the stars have scars…
a darkness
in the depth of their light,
but what we see
is a beauty
whole and bright
because those holes
(like yours and mine)
are on the inside”

What would I turn to when I’m thinking of how to get through a hard time? Surely not a gritty 60-line poem about dying or loss? Sometimes we need something that seems simpler but really isn’t simple at all – any more than truth is simple. The ability to instill hope is far from simple, but some people just have that grace, as A. Shea does. But she doesn’t do it without tipping her hat at the reality of life, her poetry isn’t so far removed from the every-day as to be all unicorns and glitter. She’s that deft combination between hope and truth. I think that’s why she’s so damn respected. These are words any age can relate to; Teenager breaking up with boyfriend feeling invalidated, woman retiring feeling lost, someone sick or someone who has lost a loved one, someone healthy who needs purpose? These are poems for us all:

“I feel the years in my bones…
the aged wisdom of my soul,
but my spirit has a youth
that time and pain
will never touch.”

When we think of what a modern day ‘warrior’ looks like, we might want to think of a chronically ill woman who despite every reason not to, is creating incredible, life-affirming poems and artwork (yes, she’s an artist as well) and thriving despite her diagnosis. This very heart of a warrior is what I believe draws so many to relate to A. Shea’s writing as well as share it with others. It has become a movement, a voice for those who cannot speak, words to comfort or educate, a method of explaining the struggle, rendering help or just understanding, for thousands who read her. Have you ever wanted a wise friend who knows what you’re going through and instead of offering advice or saying ‘sorry to hear that’ says ‘I too know how this feels?’ You feel less alone with a friend like that and that kind of voice is almost impossible to craft into poetry, yet that’s exactly what A. Shea has achieved.

“We are heaven
in mortal clothes
and every beat
of these hearts know
that we are created
to do more
than just survive”

You may not understand this if you have never experienced a moment when you felt the bottom drop out of your world. But if you have, or if your teen daughter has, or your 65-year-old father, then they get it. They hear in A. Shea’s words, the universal fight for fairness, for justice, and how that is so often denied but fight we must. They relate to her courage, her fear, her never giving up, her humanity. That’s the essence of poetry, it becomes the people’s voice when they cannot stitch those words together themselves. I believe this is why poetry has consistently been thought of as the highest art form. What else speaks that loudly? And has the transformative power to change lives?

with these wings

https://www.amazon.com/These-Wings-collection-poetry-prose/dp/1737281090

Published 2022. ISBN: 978-1737281092 

Reviewer Bio: Candice Louisa Daquin is of Sephardi French/Egyptian descent. Born in Europe, Daquin worked in publishing for the US Embassy before immigrating to America to become a Psychotherapist, where she has continued writing and editing whilst practicing as a therapist. Daquin is now a Senior Editor at Indie Blu(e) Publishing, a feminist micro-press. She freelances as Writer-in-Residence for Borderless Journal and Poetry & Art Editor for The Pine Cone Review. Her next collection, Tainted by the Same Counterfeit is out September (Finishing Line Press).


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