Literature Reviews

Review: Prelude to Light by Venetta Octavia

prelude to light

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)

Title: Prelude to Light

Poet: Venetta Octavia

Genre: Poetry

Where to buy: Platypus Press (limited print run)

Summary: “In her debut collection, Venetta Octavia ventures inwards on a personal journey to discover the light within. She writes of how love and loss are often the same thing—a reflection that defines who we are—but also, how the stories we breathe life into are only the creations of our own mind.” (Source: Goodreads)

Content Warnings: violence, throwing up, taxidermy, blood, lashing, death, drowning, vivid description of being eaten alive, implied suicide, intrusive thoughts, vivid description of a deer being shot at, mention of switchblade, war, mention of sword, use of blade, nightmares, use of ableist phrase cr*zy, knife, explicit request to draw blood and to choke, broken glass, vivid description of using a knife.

My thoughts

Venetta Octavia’s collection is undoubtedly epic. As I was reading it, I felt like the stars were aligning; her words are equally ethereal and brutal. The title of the collection suits the poetry within. I found myself wondering: what is the prelude to light? Naturally, I thought of the opening of Genesis, a book from the Bible, where God said “let there be light” – so the answer is darkness. But, for some reason, I was expecting a “lighter” tone as the title sounds lyrical. Nonetheless, I am stunned by this poetry collection.

I will share a few lines from the collection which moved me:

/ how is there sleep without death / how do I carry this heart without breaking?

– Fox & Mama

This particular poem is broken up into numbered sections as the fox counts to ten. I am not entirely sure about the meaning of this section, but I thought these lines were profound. I interpreted as the baby fox asking his mama these questions or perhaps to themselves.

Womanhood is like childhood

with teeth-

I am still learning,

– Maybe the Apples Grew, but It Was so Long Ago I Only Remember Seed, ii

I was not sure about this line. I think it could be applied to any person of any gender.

Grief is a wild animal howling

within you.

– Lion Hearted

Animalism is a continuous theme in Octavia’s book and it appears in various forms. Perhaps Octavia is drawing a correlation between animality and darkness. 

what types of killing are there? so many, but the first and most important one: existence.

– Fables

THIS ONE GOT ME. This is definitely the core meaning of Octavia’s collection.

Why did I read it?

I try to read lesser-known poets as much as I can. Octavia’s collection appeared to me on Kindle Unlimited.

Does the poet have other works?

Venetta Octavia has written other poetry collections such as The Alchemy of Smallness, What We Left Behind, sky-doctrine, and much more.


This is the kind of poetry that I love to read. Prelude to Light is intense, menacing, and visceral to the point of gasping. If you enjoy those sort of vibes, then this is for you.

– Melissa Jennings

What kind of poetry do you like reading?

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