Literature Reviews

Review: Empty Hotel Rooms Meant for Us by Christina Hart

empty hotel rooms

Rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)

Title: Empty Hotel Rooms Meant for Us

Poet: Christina Hart

Genre: Poetry

Where to buy: Amazon

Summary: “This collection of poetry focuses on dismembered loves, present and past, as past lovers aren’t actually in the past for the author. She carries parts of them with her, even though their hearts are no longer hers.” (Source: Goodreads)

Content Warnings: implied hanging, use of f*ck and variations of it, mention of heroin addiction, mention of killing.


My thoughts

I connected with the majority of Christina Hart’s poems in this collection. In each poem, I felt the despair of having to carry the past within you, and how much it can hold you back from the present and future. I think these poems would impact more as spoken word pieces as some of the language used was repetitive, however, the conversational tone of Hart’s poetry makes it easier to connect with difficult themes.

Here are some of my favourites:

I will take these parts of you

and push this fucking cart

around town until you try

to come take them back.

But you won’t-

you always loved being lost.

– Pushing Carts

The cover art for Hart’s collection was perhaps inspired by this particular poem. There is something darkly comical about the pushing around a cart full of parts of someone else as if they were nothing but plastic mannequin pieces. The last two lines create the idea of leaving parts of ourselves with other people, whether it be a lover or a friend. The last line, in particular, was an unusual ending; it conveyed that even when they were “whole”, they still indeed lost. Maybe we’re all lost. 

Why did I read it?

I have already read Letting Go is an Acquired Taste and it was noted that this collection was a companion piece.

Does the poet have other works?

Christina Hart has written another poetry collection titled Letting Go is an Acquired Taste – you can check out my review here. Hart has also written fantasy series called The Rosebush Series.

Overall…

I would love to hear this poetry collection aloud one day. If you enjoy bitter poetry, then this is for you.

– Melissa Jennings


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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.

Overall…

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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Literature Reviews

Review: Letting Go is an Acquired Taste by Christina Hart

letting go is.png

Rating: ★★★ (3 stars)

Title: Letting Go is an Acquired Taste

Poet: Christina Hart

Genre: Poetry

Where to buy: Amazon

Summary: “The companion chapbook to the best-selling Empty Hotel Rooms Meant for Us. Rather than holding on to lovers, past and present, this collection of poetry focuses on the art of letting go.” (Source: Goodreads)

Content Warnings: use of the word f*ck and variations of it, loss, being burned, abuse, mention of knives, mention of slicing, description of suffocation, death, mention of drugs, descriptions of erotic dancers, mention of train wreck, mention of noose.


My thoughts

I completely agree with the title, letting go IS an acquired taste. The significance of the title is that the speaker “lets go” of what is holding them back, in this case, people. Regarding the collection, only a few poems managed to stir me, but the majority fell flat for me. I felt that there were too many repetitive statements and phrases throughout, so it felt like I was reading the same poems over and over. But then again, perhaps this collection would impact me more as a spoken word piece. I think the collection’s theme is rather important as “letting go” of things is a particularly tough task to do.

I traced a circle

around the beauty mark

on my thigh,

marking what was still mine.

Some things they can

never take with them,

so if they want to leave,

let them.

– Let Them Leave

This is probably my favourite from the collection. For me, the poem expresses the notion of reclaiming ourselves after a breakup, especially after a physical relationship. The speaker draws the reader attention to a “beauty mark”, which is likely a symbol of their identity and self-worth.

Why did I read it?

There is something bittersweet about the title, so I wanted to see how it connected to its content.

Does the poet have other works?

Christina Hart has written another poetry collection titled Empty Hotel Rooms Meant for Us. Hart has also written fantasy series called The Rosebush Series.

Overall…

I struggled to connect with some of the poems, but it was still an enjoyable read. If you like honest, clear poetry, then this is for you.

– Melissa Jennings


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Literature Reviews

Review: [Redacted] by Trista Mateer

[redacted]

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)

Title: [redacted]

Poet: Trista Mateer

Genre: Poetry

Where to buy: Amazon

Summary: “This comes in the form of handwritten notes and poetry fragments, iPhone note poetry, tweets, Craigslist ads, and more. This mix of poetry and prose spans a single month and covers topics such as heartbreak, gender, sexuality, and forgiveness.” (Source: Goodreads)

Content Warnings: use of the word f*ck and variations of it, trauma, mention of sexual assault, mention of rape, bullets, blood, implied sexual messages, use of the word sh*t, knife, injury, choking, threat, violence, mental illness, use of the word a**hole, mention of masturbation, gun. use of the word c*m, mention of “violence against women”.


My thoughts

[redacted] is one of the most masterful poetry collection I have ever read. The mixture of form made the poetry satisfying and exhilarating to read. Moreover, some of the titles of Mateer’s poems were amazingly complicated, they seemed like poems themselves. [redacted] is simply a masterpiece and can only be described by a quote by Carrie Fisher: “take your broken heart and make it into art.”

he is more dream than boy, so

I’m not sleeping very well.

This is one of Mateer’s shortest poems in [redacted], nonetheless, it had the most impact, for me personally. The poem expresses this notion of presence, the fact that this “boy” is taking up their thoughts. Moreover, the poem could also illustrate that the boy is a figment of their imagination, perhaps a person from their past, and the speaker is tormented by the memory of them. ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES.

A recurring theme in [redacted] is metapoetry, where Mateer discusses “the poet” through poetry.

The poet emotionally tortures herself for art. The poet emotionally tortures other people for art.

– A Few of My Glaring Character Flaws Laid Out in Third Person Just for Kicks

I adore this writing style. The entire poem articulates the struggles of a poet, and how poets use poetry as a means of catharsis, and ironically, without really purging. As a poet, I found myself nodding furiously at this poem.

Why did I read it?

I love Trista Mateer’s writing style. She became one of my favourite poets after reading her chapbook Small Ghost.

Does the poet have other works?

Trista Mateer has written other poetry collections, Honeybee, The Dogs I Have Kissed, and Instead of Writing Our Breakup Poem, that I cannot WAIT to read.

Overall…

I highly recommend [redacted] as it is a poetry collection which is experimental with form. Its topics are also various and poignant. If you enjoy emotive, abstract poetry, then this is for you.

– Melissa Jennings


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Literature Reviews

Review: hummingbird by Sophia Elaine Hanson

hummingbird

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)

Title: hummingbird 

Poet: Sophia Elaine Hanson

Genre: Poetry

Where to buy: Amazon

Summary: “hummingbird is Sophia Elaine Hanson’s first collection of poetry to come to print. It tells a story of love, loss, and rebirth.” (Source: Goodreads)

Content Warnings: implied nudity, mention of assault, emotional abuse, knives, sudden weight loss, wounds, human “insides”, vivid description of peeling back skin.


My thoughts

Sophia Elaine Hanson’s poetry is on another plane of existence. hummingbird is so good that I nearly dog-eared the whole collection. The poetry book consists of, well, poetry, prose, illustrations, and a short story that all generate an otherworldly quality. Hanson has a fantastic storytelling ability; I am inspired by her writing style and her words.

The following line is one of my favourites, and is also one that broke me:

I wonder what you remember, what you see when you say my name in the cold place between day and night. Do you still say it? Can you? Do I reply?

– Animals, p.3

The phrase “in the cold place between day and night” made me gasp; Hanson perfectly expresses those early hours that are undoubtedly “cold” at dawn, especially for those tormented by the past. The prose poem continues to devastate the reader by asking questions, each question complicating the line of thought. You can only wonder the answers to these questions.

The significance of the title is that the speaker is reclaiming themselves:

You call me hummingbird,

A heart too big for my little ribs.

– Hummingbird heart, p.7

Here’s a weird bird fact: hummingbirds are the only known bird species to fly backwards. If the speaker is truly hummingbird-like, then it is reasonable to say that the speaker is capable of rebirth or going “backwards”. Maybe it is a bit of a stretch, but the fact popped into my head when I was reading.

Why did I read it?

This is Hanson’s first poetry collection, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Does the poet have other works?

Sophia Elaine Hanson has written/is currently writing a science fiction trilogy: Vinyl, Radio, and Siren. Hanson is also releasing a second poetry collection titled soul like thunder, which I cannot wait to read!

Overall…

In a good way, this collection mystified me. I am in love with its magic. If you enjoy bewitching, relatable poetry, then this is for you.

– Melissa Jennings


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Literature Reviews

Review: I Am More Than a Daydream by Jennae Cecelia

 

I AM MORE THAN A DAYDREAM (2).png

Rating: ★★★ (3 stars)

Title: I Am More Than a Daydream

Poet: Jennae Cecelia

Genre: Poetry

Where to buy: Amazon

Summary: “Daydreams are more than just short bursts of happiness that only our minds can see. I know I am more than a daydream; and you are, too.” (Source: Amazon.com)

Content Warnings: being scalded, emotionally abusive phrase “be man enough”, threat, male predators, scars, low self-esteem, body negativity, use of f*ck, image of the middle finger gesture, alcohol, terrorism


My thoughts

Jennae Cecelia’s third poetry collection resonated with me far more than her previous poetry collections. The title has great significance for me personally. Admittedly, I connected with some poems more than others, but I believe anyone could find something to take from this book.

Just like the moon,

brightness is the only

side you see of me.

Darkness lingers on the

other side,

only exposed in catastrophe.

– I am the (wo)man in the moon

Moon metaphors are some of my favourite kind of metaphors. This poem illustrates how much of ourselves we hide in order to keep our loved ones close. I am uncertain how I feel about the title of this poem; I think the parenthesis is unnecessary as men and nonbinary people hide their thoughts and feelings too. It just seems random, in my opinion.

With regards to poem titles, I thought that some of them were rather peculiar, such as “good thing I am an ice princess”, “women are architects and builders”, “we are all milk jugs in the end”. I felt that these particular poems did not visibly connect with their titles.

Moving on, I loved the following line:

I am the unexpected

pit stop;

– I Am a Forest

The deliberate spacing is so satisfying to read! I utterly connected to I Am a Forest; it illuminates how unpredictable life is, and how surprising people can be. I also wish that this poem was extended as it reads like a spoken word piece.

However, despite loving some poems from this collection, I was disappointed in a few poems, which ultimately brought my rating down:

I am a woman with a mouth

of wisdom

You better be man enough to

listen with patience,

and not talk over me because you

can be louder.

– you can’t silence this woman

I completely understand the intention with this poem, but the phrase “be man enough” is incredibly problematic and abusive. There is nothing positive about the statement “be man enough” or similar phrases “man up” or “be a man”. It reinforces hyper-masculinity where men are told not to express their emotions. With this poem, I understand that the female speaker is tired of being interrupted and spoken over, but to belittle a person’s emotions is not a solution.

Why did I read it?

I’m all about supporting indie authors, and I was rather curious about the title’s meaning.

Does the poet have other works?

Jennae Cecelia has written two other poetry collections, Uncaged Wallflower and Bright Minds Empty Souls, which I have already read! (Click on the titles to see my reviews)

Overall…

I feel that I Am More Than a Daydream is the strongest out of Cecelia’s poetry collections. due to its title significance and thematics. If you enjoy inspiring, positive poetry, then this is for you.

– Melissa Jennings


What does “I Am More Than a Daydream” mean to you?

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Literature Reviews

Review: Small Ghost by Trista Mateer

small ghost

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)

Title: Small Ghost

Poet: Trista Mateer

Genre: Poetry

Where to buy: Amazon

Summary: “Small Ghost is a brief narrative collection of poetry about depression and anxiety with a central focus on coping mechanisms.” (Source: Goodreads)

Content Warnings: scars, mental illness, knives, anxiety, panic attacks, alcohol abuse, low self-esteem, blood, use of the word f*cking.


My thoughts

Small Ghost is one of the most relatable and tragic poetry collections I have ever read. As someone who suffers from depression and anxiety, I recognised myself within these pages. Trista Mateer’s dedication nearly made me weep:

for anybody who feels like they’d

rather

pull the sheet over their head and play

dead

than get out of the bed in the morning

The narrative-like structure of Small Ghost was what intrigued to read Mateer’s collection, as I was curious if the summary would be connected to this “small ghost”, and goodness, I finished reading the collection with a whole new understanding of my mental health.

As I adored this collection, dog-earing every page on my Kindle app, I will share some poems/lines that were my (absolute) favourite:

she makes things so people know she’s still

here

she makes things so she knows she’s still here

– Small Ghost Gets Creative

There is something about creating things that make you feel alive, makes you feel real. It’s also bizarre how, as people, we feel a need to do things in order to feel a part of society and/or even ourselves.

I also loved Lauren Zaknoun’s illustrations of the “Small Ghost”; the images of the ghost made the poetry much more impactful.

Why did I read it?

Mental illness is rarely discussed as it is, so this was a must read.

Does the poet have other works?

Trista Mateer has written other poetry collections, such as The Dogs I Have Kissed, Honeybee, and [Redacted].

Overall…

I LOVE THIS COLLECTION. I really want a physical copy. Please, Trista?

If you enjoy impactful, poignant poetry, then this is for you.

– Melissa Jennings


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