Blog: Charly Cox Validate Me
Written by: Millie Towner
Steeped in a romantic nostalgia, Charly Cox is captivating, funny and wickedly smart during her final tour stop for her second book, Validate Me. Charly is a 24-year-old ‘Insta’ poet and author of two books. Her first book, she must be mad, intimately explores mental health, love and the trials and tribulations of coming-of-age and, in Validate Me, about living a life online and the debilitating effect of a social-media exposed generation.
The University of Sheffield’s Drama Studio is packed on this rainy Thursday night, the atmosphere buzzing as we wait for the talk to start. As they take their seats on stage, it is evident that Charly and Sam have electric chemistry, laughing and joking about off-stage incidents that occurred moments beforehand, such as Charly choking on a grape. You feel like you are listening in on a private late-night conversation between best friends that is not meant for anyone else’s ears but theirs, yet it still feels lighthearted, despite the intimacy of the conversation at points across the hour. The space feels safe, which I credit to the warmth radiated by both Charly and Sam.
Charly reads out the introduction from Validate Me, a collection of poetry and prose based on Charly’s mental breakdown, to begin the night. We learn that everything in this book was written on her phone – an irony, like her career being founded on Instagram, that is hard to ignore. Charly has a lot to say about Instagram, crediting it to the start of her career, that, ironically, led to her mental breakdown, thus inspiring a second book. Charly was initially seduced by the fleeting promise of Instagram, how it felt non-committal, unlike her blog, where she felt everything had to be polished and perfected. Another irony, we discover, when Charly and Sam discuss the danger of our daily scroll through social media, being faced with a ‘best bits’ reel of people we know, and those that we don’t, stuck in a cycle of comparison. Charly says that “the bookends of our day are [spent] being cruel to ourselves, instead of looking [inwards] at how we are feeling” which stuck with me long after the evening was over. Most of the night’s conversation focuses on the relationship between mental health and social media, however, Charly does read out three poems from Validate Me: ‘141’, ‘Broken Abacus’ and ‘The Conception’. ‘Broken Abacus’ follows Charly’s revelation that she wears fake engagement rings every day – “it is engrained” – which she will move from right to left, as she writes in the poem, using them as a subtle man-deterrent.
Halfway through the talk, Charly poignantly states that “[her] pain has barcodes”, her words resonating profoundly within me. It reminds me how truly personal poetry or prose – all aspects of literature – can be to both the writer and the reader, forming a connection based on mutual feelings and shared experiences – everything Validate Me does for me, and for others. To paraphrase Charly, ‘will you please, please [read] Validate Me?’