Read This: Untamed and The Poetry Pharmacy

Read This: Untamed and The Poetry Pharmacy

The third installment of Crying Out Loud's book reviews, featuring Untamed by Glennon Doyle and The Poetry Pharmacy, edited by William Sieghart.


Cover of Untamed by Glennon Doyle - background image features a swirl of paint in pinks, greens and gold glitter

The headline of a 2016 Washington Post article about Glennon Doyle reads, ‘A Christian Mom Blogger announces she’s engaged to soccer star Abby Wambach’. It's not a headline that I remember reading; Doyle wasn’t on my radar in those days, likely because I’m not a practicing Christian or a Mom. She was already on the radar for a lot of other people, though, many of whom had read her two previous memoirs, 2013’s Carry On, Warrior and 2016’s Love Warrior, the latter of which was an Oprah Book Club pick.

Doyle has always been a confessional writer; on her blog and in her books she’s talked candidly about her struggles with addiction and eating disorder, and Love Warrior is about the revelation of her then-husband’s infidelity and the way the couple worked through it together.

And in case you're wondering about the timeline of this story, yes, both of the dates I mentioned above are both correct: Love Warrior, the book about overcoming infidelity in her marriage, and the article announcing that she was engaged to Abby Wambach, were both published in 2016. Doyle actually met Wambach while she was on tour promoting Love Warrior. Confused? Luckily for you, there’s a memoir that explains the whole story: Untamed.

As much as Untamed is about Doyle’s own specific, personal life, though, it’s also an inspiring and universal story about finding the courage to confront your own ideas about who and what you should be, and to accept that those things can change over the course of your life, and there’s no shame in admitting and acknowledging that. Untamed isn’t a refutation or re-write of Doyle’s first two books, it’s the most recent chapter in the evolving story of her journey towards self-actualization and acceptance.

One of Doyle’s maxim’s is ‘We can do hard things’. It’s such a simple, straightforward sentence, but it carries such resonance – especially now, when we have all been doing really hard things for over a year during the pandemic. [It’s also the name of a new podcast she recently launched, available now wherever you listen to podcasts]. ‘We can do hard things’ captures the essence of Doyle’s message: it is hard to figure out what you should be doing with your life, and to keep going when life keeps throwing you challenges, but you’ve gotten through hard things before, and you’ll do it again.

Get your copy of Untamed here

The Poetry Pharmacy: Tried-and-True Prescriptions for the Heart, Mind and Soul

Cover of The Poetry Pharmacy - red hardcover book with gold text

I learned about The Poetry Pharmacy from a poetry reading series on Instagram organized by the Queen of Dragons herself, Emilia Clarke, last spring, at the beginning of the pandemic. The series featured famous actors reading selections from the book, and encouraging viewers to donate to a charity nominated by each reader. It featured some serious A-list celebrities, including the inimitable Queen of Everything-Else-Aside-From-Dragons (in my eyes, at least) Helena Bonham Carter, reading Mary Oliver’s poem ‘Wild Geese’ from a sun-dappled nook in her home, and Fleabag actor Andrew Scott (AKA THE HOT PRIEST) performing Derek Mahon’s ‘Everything is Going to be All Right’ against a stark brick wall. [I highly encourage you to view both of those performances, multiple times if necessary].

Clarke launched the Poetry Pharmacy project while we were still deep in the initial fear and paranoia phase of the pandemic. We didn’t yet know how the virus spread, whether we should be wearing masks or sanitizing our groceries, or how we would ever get out of the nightmare we’d all found ourselves in. There’s a reason that people turn to poetry in times of uncertainty, and heartbreak, and sadness - poetry provides a balm for the soul in a way that little else can. 

As a former publishing industry person, I love a narrative like The Poetry Pharmacy - poetry is a notoriously difficult genre to sell, and the book had already been out for three years by the time Clarke started her project in April 2020. I can’t imagine copies were flying off the shelves, but then, all of a sudden, the Queen of Dragons starts doing this thing on Instagram, and boom! I immediately tried to order copies for the store after seeing HBC’s reading, but of course, everybody was trying to order copies of The Poetry Pharmacy after seeing Andrew Scott's smoldering reading, so we had to wait a month or two till the publisher could print more copies. 

The premise of the book is simple; Sieghart prescribes poems to read for dealing with different aspects of the human condition, including Anxiety, Convalescence, Heartbreak, and Regret. The poets included run the gamut from Rumi and Hafez to Maya Angelou and Julia Darling. 

In closing, because I can, and it brings my former Literature Major’s heart such joy to do so, I’ll leave you with a poem from the collection, by 10th century Japanese poet Izumi Shikibu.

“Although the wind” 

Although the wind
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also leaks
between the roof planks
of this ruined house.

Find more Poetry Pharmacy here.

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