“Nothing’s So Bad That It Couldn’t Be Worse by Raymond Poole (Book Hub Publishing, 2020).
Rain beats noisily against the shimmering, glossy, glass of window. Early evening, fading light, bare trees visible, wet, shaking in the outer landscape. My inner landscape is calm, settled, warm, excited to be home with a new book, and not any book, but a masterpiece of Raymond Poole’s titled, “Nothing So Bad That It Couldn’t Be Worse”. As I read it, my inner landscape shakes. I am emotionally moved, trembling in tandem with your experience Raymond, your words sharing the shape and space of ‘inter-present-communication’, the ‘Be-Present-Connect Model’ that can exist in an energetic realm of connectedness (Noone in print).
Forever grateful to Book Hub Publishing for the opportunity to meet and share special moments with new authors. I travelled home the night of the Book Launch held in the Convention Centre in Dublin with a treasured book in my hand. And what a treasure. Hard to put down, Raymond’s story, his writing style inviting, prompting a page turning experience.
So what is this book about?
This book is about Raymond’s personal life journey, its triumphs and challenges, but most importantly for me, it contains his personal, intimate journey of living and coping with prostate cancer diagnosis and follow on treatment, impact on life, relationships, body image and identity. It challenges the hegemonic view of masculinity and what it is to be a man and shows that vulnerability co-exists with strength and resilience. It appeals because it strips naked the realities of real life, lived in the real world, devoid of filters so often used to smooth the truth.
Raymond uses poetry in his writing: “Poetry to me is stripping naked the soul onto the starkness of a blank page stained by the ink of life’s journey…Poetry is a conduit to explain something you feel deeply emotional about but may not otherwise be able to divulge or indeed say out loud…(65)
The poem “I Never Knew I Could Say No” is powerful and emotive reading: “I cried myself asleep not knowing why but sensing it was wrong, I never knew I could say no”… (66). Reading this book allows you to understand so deeply the meaning of these words and how Raymond’s hidden, buried trauma surfaced in later life when undergoing investigations for prostate cancer: “it was a non-typical morning for me when the decades of self-preservation came crumbling down upon my head as the avalanche of my anxieties, fears and darkness shrouded across my body like a death shroud”…(110).
Raymond is a powerful voice, a man with an identity that has been dented but not destroyed. He lives with courage and hope. He offers understanding that goes beyond words. His honestly about the impact his cancer has had on his relationships, his man-hood is acutely captured in his poem The Absent Love. He wrote this poem to his wife approximately 18 months after his surgery. In his own words he describes it as being “about the conflict that rages in my head over being absent in our bed even though I was physically lying beside her”. (131). “…I long to hold you close but now find I have built an invisible barrier, the barbed wire of my own deprived emotions is preventing the tender touch, the closeness, the emotional warmness and tenderness of your caress”… (132). The final chapter is beautifully written, a tribute to his Dad who used to say “Nothing so bad that it couldn’t be worse” (137). I recommend you read it for yourself, my words are futile to describe the power of Raymond’s own voice.
Raymond, your book is deeply philosophical, thoughtful, provocative, disturbing and raw, webbed and weaved into the cycles of vulnerable-resilience spaces that are real life. This is one man’s journey but it teaches us about open conversation, trauma and masculinity, and how prostate cancer can strips layers of identity from any man as he stands naked in his vulnerability. It offers hope in that the shreds of altered identity can be partially pieced together through love, support and shared companionship. This is a book of resilience, courage, humour, love, relationships, drive and ambition but most of all it is a story of your survival Raymond.
This book opens up a conversation, in particular, in the ‘man-space’ of altered masculinity. This is a key read for everyone and in particular, nursing students embarking on a caring profession where the human experience needs to explored, understood and cared for in all its layers of complexity.
Thank you Raymond for writing this book, for hosting such a wonderful Book Launch in the Convention Centre, Dublin. And to @DrNiallMc of Book Hub Publishing for giving Raymond the space to publish and the courage to write.
Reading your book has enriched my heart and I hope I am a better human being as a result.
Dr Phil Noone, Lecturer, School of Nursing and Midwifery, NUIGalway.