Review: ‘I Would Leave Me If I Could’, a collection of poetry by Halsey

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On November 10th the anticipated collection of poetry entitled I Would Leave Me If I Could by Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Halsey (Ashley Frangipane) was released by Simon & Schuster.

Halsey’s poetry collection was particularly awaited by fans due to her background in poetry. Unknown to many, she had an extremely popular poetry blog on Tumblr before her debut as a musician. It posted raw, expressive pieces, many of which went viral. One poem obtained over 820,000 re-blogs, and many of her writings eventually made their way into her songs, which hold the same rawness, vulnerability and unfiltered honesty. Furthermore, Halsey has never shied away from sharing the most intimate and raw moments of her life. Her experience as a bisexual woman, her struggles with bipolar disorder, her relationships, miscarriage, and much more.

Halsey utilises poetry to dive into her personal life and reclaim her power

The synopsis of I Would Leave Me If I Could reads, “Halsey bares her soul. Bringing the same artistry found in her lyrics, Halsey’s poems delve into the highs and lows of doomed relationships, family ties, sexuality, and mental illness. More hand grenades than confessions, these autobiographical poems explore and dismantle conventional notions of what it means to be a feminist in search of power.” This can certainly be said to be true and reflected just in the first few lines & poems in I Would Leave Me If I Could, setting a precedent for what is to come further in the collection.

The cover is a painting created by Halsey herself titled The American Woman, demonstrating further artistic talents she possesses and perhaps the message of the collection itself: that it is not just about what it is like to live as herself but also a woman in this day and age. 

Halsey utilises poetry to dive into her personal life and reclaim her power, as stated in a recent Vogue interview while talking about one of the poems from the collection, Ordinary Boys: “In moments where I feel powerless, one of the ways that I gain awareness and control over a situation in my life is that I write about it. Once you’ve put someone down on paper, you’ve reduced them to a character, and they no longer have the power that they do in real life.”

Another striking element of I Would Leave Me If I Could is its authenticity. The collection does not stray from what fans know her best for, her poetry and artistic lyricism. Her writing is no different from her pre-fame Tumblr poetry blog era, not intended to be looked upon by critics as a literary masterpiece but simply as a raw, unfiltered, self-expressive collection of poetry. With Halsey herself echoing this sentiment in a recent interview with Vogue – “I’m not treating it like it’s this fucking opus… It’s no different to me than what I used to do on my Tumblr. I used to write poetry and post it on my blog every day.” Halsey’s poetry and lyricism share the same structure, making the poetry easy to digest while still being artistic and intricate. Her lyrical work has also been highly celebrated, with Halsey currently holding the Hal David Starlight Award from the songwriter’s hall of fame.

Reading I Would Leave Me If I Could often felt invasive, comparable to reading someone’s diary, but that’s what creates its impact. Halsey’s wide creative duality leaves the reader to explore their feelings, to look introspectively upon themselves, reclaim their power and see the world through the view of The American Woman. 

Halsey’s wide creative duality leaves the reader to explore their feelings

I Would Leave Me If I Could is a bold exploration of Halsey’s life so far, taking the reader from her childhood growing up working class to today, where she sits at twenty-five, a Grammy-nominated artist. One poem entitled Everything discusses her life as a child and its ‘magic’ before she realised her family’s financial situation. Halsey explores the highs and lows of her personal life, although not chronologically.

The collection includes poems both new and old. Fans would recognise some from her music, such as the poemThe Devil in Me which contains the pre-chorus to the song of the same name. Others are recognisable through speeches, including her notable A Story Like Mine speech from the 2018 New York Women’s March, discussing her and her friends’ experiences of sexual assault. New poems such as Fun girl take a look at feminism and the male perspective of women. 

I Would Leave Me If I Could is a poetry collection for the modern age, easy to read, widely available. It depicts a raw and honest journey living as Halsey, as Ashley but, more widely, living as a modern woman – perhaps The American Woman the cover encapsulates.

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