The Empty Chair

A collection of emotive poetry based on the subject of bullying. Featuring poems told from the viewpoints of victims, family, friends and bystanders, each verse tells a sometimes harsh and stark story of the pain and suffering that bullying can cause, and the efforts that we should take to put an end to hate crime. 

With information and web links to the UK charity, people affected by bullying have the resources to find out what support there is for them, or how they can help others.

5 stars – Powerful and Moving

This is one of those works of poetry that is hard to put into a simple, straightforward review. It is by far the most powerful book I have read in a very long time. The author, Michael Andrews, has obviously poured his soul into beautifully wrought poems, that are warnings and encouragement to us all. He has encapsulated such an important topic that delivers a strong message with relatively few words.

Do you remember when you were bullied in school? Or when you saw others being bullied? Can you recall the tragic consequences that came of it when nothing was done?

The author draws from a variety of contexts in which bullying takes place, sometimes with people stepping in to help, while at others times being too afraid to act. But the author expertly shies away from guilting me, the reader, for being a human being. He does not lambast me for a perceived lack on my part, if there ever was a time when I might have stood by and did nothing about a bullying incident. I am not being judged by the book. Admonished, yes. Warned, of course, but never judged.

He takes the perspective of parents, who have gone through the death of their son, or a near-tragic experience, and it is moving as we see their loving reaction to their child’s pain from being bullied.

Amazon Reviews

5 stars – Enduring the darkest of days

The Empty Chair by Michael Andrews is a poetry collection about a bullied victim’s anguish.

These poems peek into the hurting world of bully victims. The collection starts with a simple poem from an overweight classmate who was abandoned by a friend. Her life is now no better than an empty chair.

Some verses speak about finding inner strength, and cultivating friendships with other bully victims. Additional viewpoints are poignant too, such as the parent’s lament for a son who took his life because of the unbearable harassment. Some poems mention hope. Even though the victim is enduring the Darkest of Days, things will get better.

Teen school life is cruel to all kids that are different. The Empty Chair is a sobering read. The verses are an excellent warning to all who ignore, or cause, a bully victim’s torment.

5 stars – Pain in plain English

This is a compilation of moving, powerful poems on the theme of abuse both physical and emotional. The poems are raw and unpolished - and therefore more powerful in their painful sincerity.

We have lots of different names for bullying - hazing, initiation, teasing, name-calling, beating up, persecuting, excluding, 'sending to coventry' - and many of them reflect how we try to make the abuse sound less vicious and more acceptable, or at least ignorable. In The Empty Chair Michael Andrews says, "No." No, it's not ignorable, it's not acceptable, and the degree of pain it causes is comparable to torture by the secret police of a dictatorial state.

The language of the poems is simple. The rhymes are largely obvious. Sometimes word choices are forced according to rhyme, and sometimes the rhythm is disrupted because something just has to be said. From an academically literary perspective it is not great poetry. I would give it, probably, three stars. But poetry doesn't work like that, and exactly because these poems are so raw, so heartfelt and sincere and unconsidered, they speak with power.

The book is intended for a wide range of readers: victims, bystanders, bullies, and parents of all of these. Usefully, the book has lots of links to the BeatBullying initiative, which enables any reader to access support easily.

In conclusion, I must add that I think the cover of this book is brilliant. It (almost) tells the whole story at a glance.

4 stars – Deeply emotional with a powerful message

This is a deeply emotional collection of poems. The author focuses on different aspects of bullying, from the kid who is pushed to suicide to the kid who fights back, and even presents a poem from the parents' point of view. The message is unmistakable, as it shines through each poem: stop bullying! No matter its form, it is wrong, and the author makes that clear through his use of poetry.

Personally, I can't imagine anything being so bad that someone would take their own life. However, children do not think rationally and need much more emotional support than some realize. These poems illustrate that fact, driving home the need for all of us to make a change. I commend the author on his message and for supporting charity with his writing.

The writing itself is done well. There are some poems that drive home the message without focusing too much on rhyme or meter. A few, though, seem to be worded awkwardly in order to make the poem rhyme or flow in a certain way. My personal preference is for an author to speak from his/her heart rather than trying to follow rules. I enjoyed the less structured poems the best from this collection.