“30 Days Dry” by Robert Eric Shoemaker (2015)

Being an artist myself, I guess I’ll always be partial towards art therapy. I find the process of writing my thoughts down, throwing it all on music and even scribbling my frustrations down on sketchbooks until they become little pieces of art very therapeutic and a more effective release of negative energy. Those inclinations were what pushed me to agree editing “30 Days Dry”, a poetry book by Chicago-based poet and playwright Eric Shoemaker.

“30 Days Dry” is the first entry to Thought Collection Publishing’s 30 Days… Challenge, a project encouraging literary artists to write about a specific topic or story in a frame of thirty consecutive days (I’ll post the link to it below so you can join!). Shoemaker’s entry focuses on the struggles of addiction and seizing the light of sobriety through “self-betterment and de-contamination of the body and mind”.

Documented with piercing accuracy, the entire healing process is laid out bare through poetry form, making it easier for the reader to empathise with stories like what goes on after a guilty relapse, his inebriated mind making him see a “wide-hipped monster savoring his claws at me-“. After going through the last brushes with intoxication, he begins to pick up the pieces, later questioning his ethics through subtle dark humour, calling himself that “hypocrite on the other side of the mirror”. The language throughout the journey is rigid and somewhat offbeat, which mirrors what’s going on within the mind perfectly.


What Shoemaker doesn’t say through language, he expresses through the structure and overt physicality of his poetry, from the lines repeated over and over again to the point of imbalance (“Jack is a good boy./Round and round”), sprinkling short and blunt poems in between longer ones to the flirtatious way he utilises punctuation (or lack thereof, in some cases), like the sole question mark lingering in the final line of “Day seventeen” like a fish hook.

All of this illuminates the character’s growing humanity while exercising the writer’s finesse creative writing. Shoemaker squeezes the juice out his thirty days, ridding himself of the negative energies that consume him until he is ready to challenge the world around him, gaining not only a firmer grip on the ground on which he stands, but on his identity. This is most evident in my personal favourite “Day nineteen (the artistic balance of work and art)”, where the writer uses bare and naked language to question the structure of society and its perspective of art, where it stands and why we should give it the time that we could be using for overtime shifts, eventually leading up to the final line “Why i who has the luxury to make this decision?”

The final poem ends in a positive note by saying “I can”, a phrase that can might as well be a useful mantra chanted every morning before stepping out of your front door. It leaves the reader relieved and satisfied to know that although there isn’t any concrete certainty that the narrator will always remain sober, but thanks to the epiphanies and revelations that the narrator has come across with through those thirty days, they are assured that the poet has gained a stronger grip on the ground, and if ever another relapse happens, the bouncing back will be quicker.

“30 Days Dry” also features the gritty and fantastical artwork by Susanne Wawra, whose emotive work helps visualise those that cannot be through words; the crayon-like effect gives out an impression of a child’s work, but the actual images themselves combined with that evokes a fittingly haunting vibe.

30 Days Dry Ad v2 100x100

Web Map:

30 Days Dry:

Print: 30 Days Dry

Kindle: 30 Days Dry

Magzter: 30 Days Dry

Eric Shoemaker:

Personal website: reshoemaker.com

Facebook: Robert Eric Shoemaker

Susanne Warwa:

Personal website: susanwawra.com

Facebook: Susanne Warwa

30 Days… Challenge Contact Information:

Webzine page: 30 Days… Challenge

Kat Lahr (Creative Director): anthologies@thoughtcollection.org

Published by troycabida

Troy Cabida (he/him) is a Filipino poet and producer based in south west London. His recent poems have appeared in TAYO Literary Magazine, harana poetry, MacMillan and bath magg. He is a producer for London open mic night Poetry and Shaah and co-founder of Liwayway Kolektibo, an arts and culture network providing space for UK-based Filipino/a/x creatives. His debut pamphlet, War Dove, was published by Bad Betty Press in 2020. Photo taken by Ray Roberts.

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