Poetry Book Review: The Mermaid’s Voice Returns in This One

Amanda Lovelace’s third book in the “Woman Are Some Kind of Magic” was published just last week. The main themes include sexual assault, survivor identity and past relationships, and thus is at times powerful and emotional.

Compared to other mainstream books of the same publisher, this collection included a wider variety of imagery and metaphors, which I did enjoy. Yet, upon reading a long collection, the voice gets lost. The tone doesn’t vary, and it gets repetitive, even though the vocabulary progresses.

One of my issues with the book is the formatting, mainly the line breaks. Having a line break after every one or two words is frustrating. It breaks rhythm. It makes it impossible (for me) to read and it distracts me a lot. In some ways, the good poems are drowned
by other
poems
that
make
you
want to
stab
your eyes.

In addition to Lovelace’s poems, the book features a number of guest poets. Their work was placed between Lovelace’s poems, so that we alternated from an author poem to a guest poem. For me, the guest poems were a breath of fresh air — I found myself looking forward to the next guest poem but not to Lovelace’s one. This led me to realise that I was liking the author’s poems less than I thought, and evidently led to my rating drop down to a simple “it was okay.”

All in all, the collection has potential. It has solid metaphors and emotion behind the poetry. I’m not sure that the author managed to deliver what she intended. Would I recommend this book? No. I mean, if you like mainstream poetry or her previous collections, go ahead. But I don’t see this book as being something anyone must have on their bookshelf.


I received an Advanced Review Copy from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review


Sources and Links:

Book: The Mermaid’s Voice Returns in This One
Book Cover: Goodreads
Help me read more books by donating on Ko-Fi or PayPal.me

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Poetry Book Review: “Bleed Like Me: Poems for the Broken”

I received an advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review.


I rarely accept requests and do not finish reading, but this was an exception. Unsurprisingly, several other reviewers failed to finish it, and within good reason.

With an incredible cover, the book promises a dark, gothic collection of poetry. The imagery lives up to this expectation. However, the descriptions were quite repetitive. The lines were quite verbose, and I doubt they were given a proper round of edits. I hate to be this person, but although they have poetic potential, these only seem to be drafts of poems — they require more attention to the craft.

This adds to the problem of a poetry eBook that is entirely centred — big cringe! Now, it’s not always a negative thing and sometimes the helps portraying the message, but it’s not the case with this book. Especially with digital reading, where font sizes can be adjusted, the presentation will vary, and any intended shape will be lost. This also ruins any rhythm that would have been present within the poems, if there was one to begin with.

All in all, I don’t think this is a worthy buy for anyone. There are hundreds of books out there and our money is limited, so we must spend it on books that will be of value to us. As much as I hate shutting down someone else’s work and even if the poet has some good ideas, the overall product isn’t totally there.


Sources and Links:

Book: Bleed Like Me: Poems for the Broken
Book Cover: Goodreads
Support by donating on Ko-Fi or PayPal.me

Poetry Book Review: The Year of the Femme

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Year of the Femme
Cassie Donish

The Year of the Femme is exactly what I like about contemporary poetry. It’s just so damn pleasant to read. It starts out with a 20-page poem, “Portrait of a Woman, Mid-Fall”, which I absolutely loved. Donish’s language is skilful in these two stanzas:

“At the edge of a field a feeling of arrival awaits
Arrival is not a rival of departure
The two have to work together to make anything happen

All the clocks move together through time
In a flock of birds, some birds are a little behind
All the birds are held together by a principle of form” (p. 15)

In the above excerpt, the lack of punctuation adds to the poetic marvel; the garden pathing and gentle echoes are genius.

Throughout the collection, Donish takes us from one vivid image to another. I compare it to being in a maze of floral shrubs, that, even when you are not led directly to your destination, the journey is aromatic and enjoyable, and all I wanted to do is be lost in her poems forever. Read the beginning of “The Leaf Mask”

            “she saw real birds
as wind-up birds with intricate
machinery, their whistles, the metal

architecture of their wings—she saw
them perched atop the hospital,
where exhausted women brought

catatonic lovers. She thought,
all buildings are wild, inviting people into
their mouths. One day she’ll chew


the crowd to dust, spit out bones, watches,
doves
.” (p. 59)

Refreshing—the best word to describe this collection. The shorter poems were consistently engaging and vivid, and I was torn between wanting to read it all in one sitting and wanting to savour it, piece by piece, slowly melting on my tongue. The book ends in the titular poem, “The Year of the Femme”, which is lyrical in its dualistic interplay of form and text. In the first stanza, Donish writes:

“I grew up swimming in a slow-moving river, in words like sister and girls. I knew a waist was supposed to be soft, knew when it should be covered, when revealed.”

The final poem is rich with eroticism, with sensuality, with the perfect combination of tight prose-poetry and loose verse. I find it hard to objectively describe the poetry, because, it is so much more than vocabulary choice or skilful editing. No, we’re taken on a journey, a boat ride with your hands running across the river’s cool surface. Even in the structural dichotomy, Donish’s voice remains effortless and ever-present.  “The Year of the Femme” is filled with queerness and the nostalgia of past experience which might be clearer now, but she goes through them as if it’s her first time, living them as they should have been lived to begin with. And that’s the most touching aspect of the whole collection. Donish embeds her voice in crystal clear images, which in their fragmentation become so complete.

And as the words take a life of their own, as the ink separates from the paper, we’re given a clearer identity while strengthening our connection with our surroundings; each breath becomes a lyrical exchange, to and fro. The essence of being elevates itself to an aesthetic way of being.

I received an Advanced Review Copy from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review


Sources and Links:

Book: The Year of the Femme
Book Cover: Goodreads
Support Me on Ko-Fi

Poetry Book Review: poems for the sound of the sky before thunder

Note. Direct quotes may appear differently than intended due to editing issues on this blog.

Review

Winters’ collection is both the storm and the silver lining. It starts out well and keeps getting stronger with each poem. Immediately, we’re thrown into a sea of darkness with the poem “Undrowned”, struggling to find ways to stay afloat. It sets out the tone of intensity that is to be expected throughout the collection. In Duologies, Winters writes:

“                                  healing
is the part in the nightmare when you wake up
just before you hit the ground”

(Duologies, p. 22)

I loved these lines because they portray a perfect juxtaposition, the danger of falling is intertwined with the hope of healing. This is what delineates the collection; the interplay of fighting to survive.

It’s a perfect balance of resilience and strength in the midst of darkness. These following lines show that so well:

 “No one ever taught me how to tie a noose,
but no one ever taught me how to heal, either.
This is learning curve beginning with exit wound.”

(Battlefield, p. 30)

There’s a sense of hopelessness but also of hope, in a way that the person is stuck between two possibilities without any help or direction. I also felt a few waves of loneliness, but at the same time, there are strong vibes of independence. We’re all alone to face decisions, the difficulties, the attempts to heal and get better. It centres to the person and the being rather than the surrounding environment. In these poems, I kept finding the reasons to standing back up and fighting, amidst all the pain.

I had to include one of my favourite poems in this review. There’s something about these lines from “Here / Where You Are” that I found to be just perfect:

“          she said                       i don’t think i’ll ever understand you
           just text me when you get home safe okay

i wanted to say                        what do you mean
i wanted to say                        i’m already here”

(Here / Where You Are, p. 38)

I’m already here. Winters found a beautiful way to write about, to what I assume, an unrequited love. It’s romantic yet painful.

Throughout the collection, Winters plays with spacing and format, and she commands the language to serve her poems. It’s one of those things in which I enjoy in poetry. All in all, it was a pleasure to read and would definitely recommend others to check out this collection

I received a free eBook copy in exchange for an honest review


Sources and Links:

Book: poems for the sound of the sky before thunder 
Book Cover: Goodreads
Support Me on Ko-Fi

Poetry Book Review: Hourglass Museum

Hourglass Museum
Kelli Russell Agodon

Review

The title is well-fitting for this collection. Kelli uses artistic imagery and references throughout the book. I specifically liked the titles of the poems, especially when they included “A portrait” or “An Abstract”; fusing art with poetry. Right off the bat, Frida Kahlo is mentioned, which I’m pretty pleased with. I don’t have much experience with art, but the references weren’t lost on me. The imagery of brushstrokes and other techniques worked well, and although used multiple times, it did not end up being repetitive. It was sufficiently varied and kept the collection consistent.

When I write reviews, I tend to include verses or poem titles that really struck me. With this collection, I didn’t have any personal connection—nothing stood out for me. I still enjoyed reading everything and wasn’t displeased by one bit, but, it also failed to make me fall in love with the writing. It’s one of those where I know it’s well-written, but I don’t feel it’s magic, which might quite be personal. It’d definitely be a book I’ll look into again in the future.


Sources and Links:

Book: Hourglass Museum
Book Cover: Goodreads
Reviewer: Jeremy Mifsud

Poetry Book Review: Hearing the Underwater

Hearing the Underwater
by Savannah Slone

Hearing the Underwater is a chapbook you want to have on your shelf—you’ll be reading the poems over and over. Several themes are approached within this collection, including motherhood, mental health and social issues such as poverty. Slone does not shy away from any thought that consume her mind.

In the poem “Cynicism and Other Synonyms”, she starts with the following stanza:

“When I have greasy hair,
I am incapable of being happy,
yet I put it off just long enough
because feeling agitated feels good
sometimes.”


Cynicism and Other Synonyms (p. 3)

And that’s only the beginning (it ends even better, trust me). In a simple way, she shows us how ‘illogical’ mental illness can be, and I could strongly relate right off the bat. Slone bares herself with the rawness of language, without hiding, and that’s why as a reader I found it so easy to connect with her poetry. And if anyone knows me well enough, they’d know how difficult it is for me to channel myself into another person’s world—Slone’s feat is by no means easy.

Her words transferred her anger and passion to me. I couldn’t stop nodding in agreement (with pouty lips and furrowed eyebrows) to some of her poems. Take a look at these lines:

“we pray on as the mounds of orphaned
pleas and rising statistics
pause it has happened
again”

Within Your White Picket Fence (p. 12)

What makes Slone’s work exceptional is that she has something to say, in a way that compels you to not miss a word. Her voice is one that we need more of, so I strongly recommend you to buy this chapbook.


I was provided with a free eBook copy in exchange for an honest review.

Quotes may differ slightly from original due to formatting difficulties on blog posts.


Sources and Links:

Book: Hearing the Underwater
Book Cover: Goodreads
Reviewer: Jeremy Mifsud

Poetry Book Review: Chameleon Aura

Chameleon Aura
Billy Chapata

Review

I’m going to approach this review from the perspective of the book’s value. I liked it. It’s uplifting and promotes self-love and awareness in a creative way. I wouldn’t necessarily call it poetry, but it doesn’t take away from the writing.

One thing I appreciate in Chapata’s book is that it is honest. It reflects his personal experiences and his growth throughout a multitude of relationships. The book is inundated with clichés about when you should let people go, but I found it [somewhat] fitting, nonetheless. There’s a sense of separating oneself from surroundings, and acknowledging self-worth, with the recurring concept of loving from a distance.

‘Recurring’ is a key-word in this review. With a book barely shy of 300 pages, all these relatable quotes become repetitive. The vocabulary does not change. In fact, towards the end, each piece of writing feels like I’ve had already read it previously. Because many things are repeated so many times, it drags the value down, it transforms revelation into preach, and Chapata becomes just another guy telling us how to feel, how to love, how to be. And what makes him qualified to do so?

It’s a nice attempt. Obviously, it could be expressed better, more vividly, more creatively (the words “darling” and “healing” were beyond over-used, amongst other words). In essence, if you read a fourth of the book, you might get more of its worth than reading it in its completion. If you’re into the quote-sy, relatable ‘poetry’, this is definitely a good book for you. Otherwise, it can still be enjoyable, but it might get boring and ‘too much’ too soon.

Chameleon Aura is expected to be published on 22nd January 2019.


Sources and Links

Book: Chameleon Aura
Book Cover: Goodreads
Reviewer: Jeremy Mifsud

I received the book for free as an Advanced Review Copy from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review

Poetry Book Review: Simple Weight

Simple Weight by Tania Runyan

Review

Simple Weight is a very apt title of combining the weight of living with the simplicity of being. I enjoyed Simple Weight for its imagery-laden poetry and the vivid descriptions—they brought nature alive. This is how the poem Sunset of Dust begins:

“When the western light saturates our room,
we see that we live in nothing more
than a nebula of dust. We watch the flurries
of our skin shimmer and swirl in the rays,
forty thousand cells a minute sloughing into the cloud.”

I think Runyan expressed herself well with the personal poems. At the same time, the book was inundated with religious poems, and although I didn’t mind the spirituality aspect, I didn’t care for the biblical persona poems, as they felt somewhat forced, impersonal and ingenuine.

Overall, I did enjoy reading the collection, but I wouldn’t have strong recommendation for it as far as contemporary poetry goes. I had no qualms with the style of the language used, so it might be a good book for Christian readers. If you’re not, I don’t think there’s anything too special about this collection to consider.


Sources and Links:

Book: Simple Weight
Book Cover: Goodreads

Poetry Book Review: Sunshine, Sadness, and other Floridian Effects

Review

I breezed through this chapter in one sitting as it was quite enjoyable. The language & imagery were refreshing & lovely. Here’s one of my favourite examples:

“I used to think about licking saltwater
From between your breasts
So close to me that I could trace your
Lazy ocean body with my tongue at high noon”

Sunshine, Sadness, and other Floridian Effects (p. 8)

Poems ranged in format and content and worked really well together. I particularly liked the poems which were really texts to and from her dad—their melancholy & nostalgia got through to me. Some poems could probably use more tightening, but nonetheless, they were pleasant. I truly recommend reading (especially since it’s pay-what-you-want) as it’s definitely worth the time, and it might lead you to Shelby’s other collections, which I’m intrigued of getting now.


Sources and Links:

Book: Sunshine, Sadness, and other Floridian Effects
Book Cover: Goodreads
Author’s Twitter: Shelby Eileen

Poetry Book Review: soft magic

softmagic.jpg

soft magic
by Upele Chisala

soft magic is a previously self-published book that’s being republished. With good reviews, I expected a good collection of poems, but I was soon disappointed. The book may be a hit or miss, and for me it was a big miss. Majority of poems are a sentence or two long and are generic, Instagram-feelgood-quotes.

If I could some up the book, it would be “Darling, you are beautiful. Darling, you are strong.” That’s what you will be getting out of the whole collection. I soon picked up overused and repeated language between poems, specifically these words: ocean, darling, bones, magic, love, swim. Create any combination of these words and you’ll have read half the book.

I wasn’t moved by any of the statements. To top it off, I already had an unfavourable opinion towards second-person poetry, especially when it’s quite generic. I enjoy consuming diverse and feminist poetry, but I find the saturation of books telling young girls “you are beautiful” to be a selling market-point that assumes women and girls need to be told they’re beautiful. As much as the patriarchy sucks, the most badass and feminist writing out there shows how badass women can be—this does not. Anyone can tell you that you’re beautiful, but great writers should be showing you and making you believe in such beauty and power. Although admirable in intention, the self-love concept fails to get through.

In summary, I wouldn’t recommend this book. Even if you like micro-poetry, this isn’t what you’re looking for. Other reviewers have compared it to similar collections but referred to how soft magic is inferior. So, save your money and spend on a more worthwhile collection.


Sources & Links

Book: soft magic
Book Cover: Goodreads
Reviewer: Jeremy Mifsud
Header Photograph: Cristina Gottardi