By Kurt Sass
I must admit, I was a little bewildered for quite some time while reading “The Fool,” Jeffrey V. Perry’s book of, by the book cover’s own description, “Poetry and Other Works.”
The reason for my initial confusion was because the book was given to me to read to review for New York City Voices, and for the first 95 percent of it I saw practically no writings concerning mental health. Most of the poetry and essays had to do with the topics of God and love. While these writings were very well written, with a style showing engagement, fluidity, strength and insight, I still could not fathom how a review of this book would benefit New York City Voices readers.
That is until I read what Mr. Perry called his “Bonus Material.” Buried within the final 15 pages of the book are two essays about mental health peers, one in particular on the topic of the peer as provider.
After reading the essay, I would have no qualms in stating that I feel that Mr. Perry is so well versed on the subject the he could pen an entire book on the subject alone. As a mental health peer provider, many of his points truly hit home and got me thinking about items I haven’t (but should) be thinking more about. He writes about the obligation and responsibilities we have as peer providers, and that we should not simply be satisfied in “getting in the door.” He adds that we should also critique ourselves and be very careful not to fall into the same traps as many non-peer providers, such as acting with our peers only in a “clinical” mode, or forgetting where we came from.
Mr. Perry went on to give an example of what helps him as a peer provider. He wrote that when he sees someone going through a trauma he goes back to his days on the Bowery and remembers that what worked best in his own recovery were those who did their job well and with an open mind.
To sum up, if you like good poetry about God and love, this book is for you. If you want to read a great essay about mental health peers, this book is for you.