This is Your Tragic Back Story is the debut poetry collection from performance poet Sven Stears. Sven has been building a name for himself on the poetry over the last ten years, including being crowned Bristol Slam poetry Champion in 2016. Since then he has also been performing all over the UK with the likes of well known poets such as Kae Tempest, doing his own tour with the theme of mental health and has run his own spoken word nights.
This collection builds on themes of addiction, childhood memories and recovery, with the ultimate theme overall being that of hope, being from someone who has clearly faced his demons and managed to overcome them.
The style is very down to earth and relatable. From the very first poem ‘Old Street, New Town’ I was already picking up parts I could relate to myself, as he talked about being a child and making friends simply with a pack of ‘Pogs’ (Do you remember those??).
Although generally I do enjoy writing my own poetry and enjoy reading poetry, usually I would read in smaller doses, but the poems in This is My Tragic Back Story kept me enticed to read much more in a single sitting. Not only because they were relatable in some form or other, but also I enjoyed the way Sven writes about his addiction, for example in the poem ‘Cowboy’, this stanza particularly stood out and felt heart-felt- “So Scared of his truth, even his confession is in third person, because it’s easier to write a story than learn a lesson, paint yourself as the hero and the villain, be the silhouette and the sunset, before you ride off into yourself’
But it isn’t all serious, there’s the poem ‘They stood me by the Toilet at Least’ which is about Sven and his brother boasting how they had worked out Santa wasn’t real, so wanted to be Santa one year, and how their parents turned the tables on them.
The final thank you as you finish this book ‘Thank you for reading this, knowing that I am well, and that I no longer hate myself” is a touching, beautiful way to end the book which I am sure many people will resonate with on a deep level.
Find out more about Sven and his work on his official website
Review by Hayley Foster da Silva