Kristiana Reed Reviews Nicholas Gagnier’s Swear To Me — June 27, 2018

Kristiana Reed Reviews Nicholas Gagnier’s Swear To Me

Swear to Me, an anthology of struggle and survival from Nicholas Gagnier, is a triumphant reveal of lonely hearts which aren’t so lonely after all. It appears a slim book of poetry when in fact it is the friend checking in on you. The friend who makes you a hot beverage or pours you a drink. The friend who listens without questions. The friend who doesn’t shrink from the boxes you’ve labeled ‘MADNESS’ but helps you unpack them. The friend who with just a smile, call or brief squeeze of your hand says: ‘You’re still here and I’m so glad you are.’

There is an undeniable sense of community in Swear to Me. Gagnier himself comments on the contributing writers being ‘the heart of a message this book represents.’ They are the chorus swelling behind Gagnier’s honest, raw solo. The standouts for me were Christine Ray’s ‘Wrecking Ball’ and Nicole Lyons’ ‘The Mmm of Her’. This chorus hits a crescendo with ‘A Room So Still and Quiet’ – a culmination of the powerful, healing voices Gagnier evokes in his poem ‘Survivors’ – they are the ‘light that refuses to die.’

However, this anthology is also crafted in the knowledge we don’t all want battle drums and war paint; sometimes we just want to know we are not alone, we are understood. Gagnier and his words are the close friends we all need and deserve and whilst some poems ignite a fire in your belly, others nod with understanding or wrap you up in shaking, ‘we can do this together’ arms. ‘A Normal Life’ is one of the most touching odes to struggle and survival I’ve ever read:

‘you are my beacon, even brighter

overcompensating madness

in the maddest of ways.’

It’s love. Battle drums, war paint, and love. Love of yourself, others and life itself – embracing the madness as your normal. Letting the walls crumble, the expectations you are something other, pack their bags and realizing the home you want to build is inside you with a ribcage scaffold. ‘Ten Year Story’, ‘Beautiful Human’ and ‘Longhurt’ are other personal favourites which all remind me of the importance of love and acceptance.

Finally, like all good friends, you will always have fond memories to reminisce about during your darkest and brightest days. The friend I found in Swear to Me is no exception. Upon finishing this anthology, I’ve returned to two poems in particular time and time again. ‘Homeward Legend’ reminds me the heart on my sleeve isn’t a weakness, and my story is not over. ‘Almost Happiness’ reminds me we do not have to be everything all at once – we don’t have to bottle up the darkness and strike false smiles like matches because:

‘Almost happiness is better

than none.’

This anthology was a long time coming (ten years) and yet I’m glad because in it Gagnier displays his heart for all to see and touch, and in this act of catharsis gives you the courage to do the same. To live unashamedly in the dark and in the light.

Swear To Me is available on,, and Book Depository

Kristiana Reed day dreams, people watches in coffee shops, teaches English and writes. She is a curator on Blood into Ink, a collective member of The Whisper and the Roar & Sudden Denouement, and blogs at My Screaming Twenties. She is 24 and is enjoying the journey which is finding her voice.

Book Review: Nicole Lyons’ “I Am A World Of Uncertainties Disguised As A Girl” by Nicholas Gagnier — May 21, 2018

Book Review: Nicole Lyons’ “I Am A World Of Uncertainties Disguised As A Girl” by Nicholas Gagnier

There’s a consistent theme stretching across Nicole Lyons’ “I Am a World of Uncertainties Disguised as a Girl”. It is felt from the opening poem, “The Next Big Thing”, in which the Canadian native states,

“Darling, I see you,
all twenty years of you,
and I will invite you to my table,
set the prettiest place for you,
to come back to me,
after you have gagged on life,
wiped your mouth
and asked for a second fucking helping”.

This feeling of violation, the siren song that has driven the #MeToo movement this last year from rock slides into a cultural avalanche, permeates and dominates every page of Girl. Even when Lyons is at her most empathetic and forgiving, gentle reminders that women still face immense challenges to be accepted in what was formerly a man’s world accompany. And at her most biting, she never abandons the readers in her care to absolute uncertainty that equality can’t be achieved with love and decency.

The poems themselves are short and digestible, leaving the reader to crave more of her vivid imagery and visceral breadcrumbs of wisdom from page to page. When a poem does span longer than four to twenty lines, it only emphasizes Lyon’s gift of telling whole stories in fifty words or less.

“If my mind
should ever eat
all of me,
please remember
the girl I tried to be.”
Marshmallows and Misunderstandings

There is a clear set of traumas that define Lyons’ work, but also a body of blessing that she has chosen to inhabit. Struggles with mental health (“Depression Sleeps”, “I’ve Seen Better Days”) and sexual assault are mirrored by inner peace and deeper bonds that time and perspective have brought her.

Lyons’ greatest ability is effortlessly pulling her audience through each chapter of her most acerbic thoughts and leaving them more hopeful than despairing for the experience.

Review by Nicholas Gagnier, Free Verse Revolution Publishing

“I Am a World of Uncertainties Disguised as a Girl” is available for purchase at

Indie Blu(e) Welcomes Nicholas Gagnier — April 23, 2018

Indie Blu(e) Welcomes Nicholas Gagnier



Nicholas is an indie writer from Ottawa, Canada, and former author of the Free Verse Revolution blog, which spawned three full books of poetry, GROUND ZERO (2013); SWEAR TO ME (2017) and the FVR COLLECTION (2018), as well as smaller chapbooks THE KILLING WAGE (2014), LITTLE CITY (2015) and GENERATION WHY (2016).

An advocate of mental health and LGBT+ issues, Nicholas is currently working on his novel FOUNDING FATHERS after a seven year sabbatical from writing books and a followup to SWEAR TO ME, an ambitious anthology which brought together several writers in the name of mental health.

Published Works

(Available on Amazon.)


Free Verse RevolutionFREE VERSE REVOLUTION: THE COLLECTION (2010-2017) is a compendium of works from Nicholas Gagnier’s Free Verse Revolution blog, which ran six years under various banners until its closure in 2018. It includes the exclusive chapbook “Dear Skylar”, featuring contributions from Kindra. M Austin and Kristiana Reed. Comprised of over 180 poems, this is the book that caps off a truly transformative experience.

Buy on Amazon

©Nicholas Gagnier



Featuring Nicole Lyons, Willie Watt, Phil Benton, Kristiana Reed, Dom, Nathan McCool, Rachel Finch, Rana Kelly, Kindra M. Austin, Sarah Doughty, Eric Syrdal, Ward Clever, Marcia Weber, Laurie Wise, Aakriti Kuntal, Lois E. Linkens, Dennis Earley, Paul F. Lenzi, A. Marie Kaluza, Natasha Kleb Alexander and Christine E. Ray.

From Nicholas Gagnier and Free Verse Revolution, this follow-up to 2013’s Ground Zero once again uses poetry to examine the pitfalls of mental illness and depression. Whereas we were once trying to write our way to a better world, these days we write just to survive the one we inhabit. Featuring 22 writers from all different walks of life, Swear to Me is a story about letting go and giving up ideals any grander than necessary, just to quell the anxiety of living with our ghosts another day.

Buy on Amazon

©Nicholas Gagnier

Book Review: Nicholas Gagnier’s Free Verse Revolution: The Collection (2010-2017) by Mariah Voutilainen —

Book Review: Nicholas Gagnier’s Free Verse Revolution: The Collection (2010-2017) by Mariah Voutilainen

Nicholas Gagnier’s Free Verse Revolution: The Collection (2010-2017) is a farewell describing a difficult but fruitful journey

By Mariah Voutilainen

If this is your first introduction to Nicholas Gagnier’s work, as it was mine, you will find within the pages of Free Verse Revolution:  The Collection (2010-2017) a testament to the power of writing in the face of a life lived with personal traumas and challenges that have led to successes.  In the preface, he writes that “poetry did more than any therapist or medication could,” and this is evident in the poems collected within this eight-part anthology.  It would have been interesting to know where each poem stood in the chronology of his work to get a sense of how his style developed over time in the context of his personal experiences.  Still, in reading, we are made privy to Gagnier’s struggles as a very young writer growing up in a fractured family, the trauma of a close friend’s suicide, his own battle with mental illness, the love and healing that has taken place in the years over which these poems were written.

There is no doubt in my mind that Gagnier’s rhythmic free verse is written to be read aloud.  I found myself wanting to go back after one silent read to belt out the lyrical staccato of poems like “Sagittarius Dream” and “Men ‘Til Breakdown” in the quiet of midmorning.  “Drunk on You” made me wish I had a melody.  More pensive and angry pieces gave me pause; I spoke them softly to hear the form hidden within the flow and found phrases that exorcised the pain of growing up (“Unpumped Blood”), frustration with politics (“The American People” and “How the Fuck”), or the love for a child whose life experience is so happily different from his own (“I Wasn’t Ready (To Love You)” and “Sorry”).

Gagnier makes strong comparisons in his poetry, taking emotional themes and pairing them with seemingly unrelated objects and ideas.  Wrinkled suits herald the demise of a relationship in “I Don’t Love You Anymore”; locational signifiers such as zip and area codes pair with writing poetry about life experiences in “Hashtag Poetry.”   References to mathematics, from algebra to geometry, abound.  I found mentions of electrical sockets (“Pocket Lint Paraphernalia” and “Currents”) amusing but also unsettling.  “Cancer Kindness” was apt; I was taken with the link forged between a decimating disease and human interaction, especially because of its positive end-feel:

they’ll forgive you

how you fall,

and you’ll always be a

medicine the world can

call on.

Just as kindness can be a virulent growth, so can life’s complications yield palliative poetry.  And Gagnier’s poetry has a healing quality, even in its most acerbic moments.

Overall, the poems collected within FVR are accessible and relatable while maintaining a level of complexity that encourages readers to delve deeper to figure out Gagnier’s meaning.  I hoped to find personal connections to his poetry and was not disappointed; I was especially moved by the pieces relating to his daughter and mother.  Truthfully, there were times I felt I was swimming in and around words on the page, only to approach the poem again and discover its truth.  But this slight disorientation was pleasant, much like the spin you take while dancing with a partner—you come back with a heightened awareness of their presence.  My only disappointment is the fact that the publication of this anthology marks the end of Gagnier’s dance with poetry for now.

Free Verse Revolution:  The Collection (2010-2017) is available for purchase on

mariahv is an aspiring American writer who waxes mostly poetic in Southern Finland.  A former teacher and current stay-at-home-parent, she enjoys reading sci-fi/fantasy, flash fiction, and poetry of the medium-dark and romantic varieties.  Daily ruminations on all manner of things can be found on her blog, (re)imagining the mundane.  This is her first book review