Literature Reviews

Review: You Are The Map by Michelle Tudor

you are the map (2)

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)

Title: You Are The Map

Poet: Michelle Tudor

Genre: Poetry

Where to buy: Amazon

Summary: In the winter of a love story, feelings become your guide. But as worlds shift and seasons change, memories last forever. Twenty-five poems follow this journey; a map to the heart of relationships. Through lust and love to despair and descent. (Source: Goodreads)

Content Warnings: themes of loneliness, loss, intimacy, depression.


My thoughts

I originally gave this collection four stars, but after returning to review it, I couldn’t believe the difference in how I felt – I think the variable was my mood. When I first read Tudor’s collection, I was settling down for bed and wanted to unwind, so I decided to read something short and sweet. Then, upon my second reading today, I was interested in why I gave this collection four stars as I don’t tend to give poetry collections four stars that often (I think anyway), so I reread and was moved deeply by this collection. I literally felt my heart ache with the speaker who was experiencing a breakdown of a passionate relationship. Tudor’s control of language was poetically devastating.

Here are some of my favourite lines from Tudor’s collection:

the rise and fall of your chest

like the waxing and waning of the

moon

– Tsuki

Moon metaphors are among my favourite, but this particular metaphor is stunning as it emphasises the intimacy of the relationship as well as its heightened/supernatural nature.

You walk like the sun bleeds only for you

(and I know that it does)

– Youth

Youth is one of Tudor’s most powerful poems in this collection. This line stood out to me due to the reply in the following parenthesis, it overwhelmed me. For me, the line articulates the idea of someone having such a strong presence that it is destructive, and this can be taken both literally and metaphorically. Although the line begins in a critical tone with the speaker commenting on the addressee’s arrogance, the speaker contradicts their criticism, which suggests the intensity of their feelings towards the addressee.

Why did I read it?

Michelle Tudor’s poetry collection was originally published by Platypus Press and I have enjoyed some of their publications, such as Prelude to Light by Venetta Octavia and Wishing for Birds by Elizabeth Hewer (yet to review).

Does the poet have other works?

Michelle Tudor has written a short story collection titled Miyoko & Other Stories, a chapbook titled The Quieting, and contributed to a short story anthology titled Tell Me a Tale. 

Overall…

Michelle Tudor is a powerful poet and I look forward to reading more of their work. If you enjoy fervid, gripping love poetry, then this is for you.

– Melissa Jennings


What makes love poetry powerful for you?

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Literature Reviews

Review: on the border by Darshana Suresh

on the border

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)

Title: on the border

Poet: Darshana Suresh

Genre: Poetry

Where to buy: Payhip (it’s actually free!)

Summary: A collection of poetry about borderline personality disorder.

Content Warnings: mental illness, self-harm, suicide, suicidal ideations.


My thoughts

on the border is an incredibly honest collection of poetry from beginning to end. Although I do not have BPD, I identified with each poem and recognised myself within Suresh’s metaphors and precise thoughts; as someone who suffers from depression, anxiety, and mood instability, I felt so understood. I strongly recommend this collection to anyone who has mental illnesses and struggles with them every day, as this chapbook discusses the feelings of a person who endures mental illness every single damn day.

There are only ten poems in Suresh’s chapbook, but it has been one of the most impactful reads this year, for me personally. Poem #6 was a particular favourite as Suresh alludes to one of my favourite poems of all-time, ‘The Hollow Men’ by T. S. Eliot:

like eliot said,

this is the way the world ends

quietly, quietly, like leaves

turning away from the sun,

six, p.10

This particular poem was so immersive and saddening; a bittersweet thought of leaving the world quietly without anyone really noticing.

Why did I read it?

It was free and recommended on Tumblr.

Does the poet have other works?

Darshana Suresh has written other poetry collections, Sugarplum, Wolf Blood, and Fleur.

Overall…

Darshana Suresh’s words moved me to tears. I needed to read her words. If you enjoy honest, distinct poetry, then this is for you.

– Melissa Jennings


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Literature Reviews

Review: Survive Like the Water by Lydia Havens

survive like the water

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)

Title: Survive Like the Water

Poet: Lydia Havens

Genre: Poetry

Where to buy: Rising Phoenix Press

Summary: In her debut poetry collection, Lydia Havens explores how mental illness, grief, and abuse have correlated in her own life, and in the patterns, she observes in the rest of the world. Divided into four thematic parts, Survive Like the Water describes trauma using everyday occurrences and objects, and asks necessary questions about healing as a lifelong process. (Source: Goodreads)

Content Warnings: mental illnesses, intrusive thoughts, traumatic experiences, low self-esteem, death.


My thoughts

Oh my stars. I love this collection with all of my heart. As someone who suffers from depression and anxiety, I felt understood. As someone who isn’t always able to articulate their thoughts, I felt myself being expressed by someone else. How ridiculous is that? It’s a good kind of ridiculous. Reading Survive like The Water was incredibly nourishing.

What does it say about me, and the fact

that there are still mornings,

ten months later, where I wake up

and mistake the sound of my own breathing

for ambulance sirens?

– During the Worst of it, p.21

The way Havens’ articulates so much in little images and ideas is simply breathtaking. Literally, I never felt more understood by a poet or a person for that matter. In this particular poem, Havens discusses how health professionals often treat people with mental illnesses, even our own families, and the speaker is horrified more with them than their own mental health.

Why did I read it?

The title intrigued me. Anything linked to water gets me interested.

Does the poet have other works?

Lydia Havens has written GIRLS INVENT GODS, Warrior Worrier, and Evolution & Revolution.

Overall…

Havens’ collection is a favourite of mine. If you like dark, emotive poetry, then this is for you.

– Melissa Jennings


Have you ever felt understood by a poet?

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Theatre Reviews

Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by National Theatre

the curious incident

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)

Play: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Author: Mark Haddon

Playwright: Simon Stephens

Director: Marianne Elliot

Company: National Theatre

Genre: Drama

Venue: King’s Theatre Glasgow

Performance Date: 17 Aug. 2017

Summary: “Christopher, fifteen years old, stands beside Mrs Shears’ dead dog. It has been speared with a garden fork, it is seven minutes after midnight and Christopher is under suspicion. He records each fact in the book he is writing to solve the mystery of who murdered Wellington. He has an extraordinary brain, exceptional at maths while ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. He has never ventured alone beyond the end of his road, he detests being touched and he distrusts strangers. But his detective work, forbidden by his father, takes him on a frightening journey that upturns his world.” (Source: curiousonstage.com)

Content Warnings: strong language, “dead dog” prop, domestic abuse, use of a knife.


My thoughts

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a truly stellar play. Its plot and protagonist, Christopher Boone played by Scott Reid, are equally unrelenting which made the play so engrossing. At first, I was a bit dubious about the casting choice of Scott Reid in such a young role (Christopher is fifteen years old), but once the first act commenced, I could see why he was chosen. From the beginning, Reid is invested in his role both vocally and physically; a lot of effort and thought was put in for the characterisation of Christopher. On a side note, Frantic Assembly (a physical theatre company) had input on Marianne Elliot’s production, which I think is what made the play so engaging – the audience could step into Christopher’s mind through the physicality of the ensemble.

 

scott reid as christopher
Scott Reid (Christopher Boone) and ensemble

The main theme of the play is Christopher’s autism, he has Asperger’s Syndrome. Simon Stephens, the playwright of the book adaptation, treats the condition with sensitivity, exploring how Christopher’s father copes. David Michaels portrays Ed Boone authentically, trying to understand his son’s world and thoughts.

In addition, Lucianne McEvoy who plays Christopher’s teacher is a great presence onstage as she encourages Christopher’s interests and becomes the voice of reason when the world becomes too much for Christopher. Elliot’s choice to have Siobhan on stage during certain moments was meaningful as she is possibly the most supportive person in Christopher’s life.

On a side note, I was mildly concerned about Toby who was portrayed by an ACTUAL rat (there were two rats’ names listed in the programme: Dumbo and Meeko – how cute!) on stage. There was one part of the play where Toby’s cage gets thrown around, but according to the programme “no animals were harmed in the making of this production”, so I hope that is the case.

Why did I attend this play?

I read Mark Haddon’s book years ago and its style was quite unusual, so when I heard that it was touring the UK, I knew I had to see it.

Would I attend another National Theatre production?

Yes, I would. I’ve seen three National Theatre productions this year so far, and I look forward to seeing many more!

Overall…

Simon Stephens’ play is true to Mark Haddon’s fantastic novel. I think this play will continue for many years to come.

– Melissa Jennings


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Literature Reviews

Review: Who Are Your People by Matthew Macdonald

who are your people

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)

Title: Who Are Your People (Cò As A Tha Thu?)

Poet: Matthew MacDonald

Genre: Poetry

Where to buy: Red Squirrel Press

Summary: A collection of poetry about considering one’s roots.

Content Warnings: alcohol, graveyards, bleeding, death, paternal estrangement, abuse.


My thoughts

Who Are Your People is incredible. I heard some of the poems read aloud, so I connected even more with Matthew MacDonald’s poetry. His poetry is exceedingly precise, sensory, and authentic; as I read the collection, it felt like I was there in those moments.

time and I observe each other

through glass tinted with rain

as we pass, going by other routes

my watch is ticking forward

as I watch the world reverse

– On the Train, p.18

Macdonald’s poem, On the Train, deals with a journey where the speaker contemplates their identity and sense of home. This particular stanza was astounding; the opening line of “time and I observe each other” is profound as time is personified to be almost a witness to the speaker’s journey to their ancestral roots. The final lines of the stanza is incredibly visual, I could see the speaker sitting in the opposite direction to where the train was headed, and how time was racing back to when the speaker last visited; it creates the idea of two different realities/time periods merging together when returning to a familiar place, and I think most people could identify with that.

Continuing this theme of time, the speaker addresses memory entangled with identity:

this is why we came here

to visit the one who remembers you

not as you remember yourself

 

but as a child, carefree…

– History II – Hillside Cottage, p.30

Trying to remember yourself is a peculiar feeling. This poem is concerned with the speaker as a child in the north of Scotland, and it is quite bittersweet as the speaker is concerned about the changes the cottage has gone through as well as themselves.

Why did I read it?

I had the honour of seeing/meeting Matthew Macdonald at a Neil Hilborn gig. I stumbled upon the merchandise stall and saw an additional poetry book to Neil’s Our Numbered Days, and the title intrigued me so much that I bought it before seeing Matthew’s performance. (He looked surprised, to say the least!)

Does the poet have other works?

You can read more of Matthew MacDonald’s poetry on his website

Overall…

As a fellow Scot, I connected to the scenery that MacDonald created. If you enjoy reflective, personal poetry about home, then this is for you.

– Melissa Jennings


What is your definition of home?

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Literature Reviews

Review: Forgive Me My Salt by Brenna Twohy

forgive me my salt

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)

Title: Forgive Me My Salt

Poet: Brenna Twohy

Genre: Poetry

Where to buy: Amazon

Summary: “Brenna Twohy’s debut collection reads like a letter to all that haunts her– letting them know that despite her wounds, she’s still alive.” (Source: Goodreads)

Content Warnings: low self-esteem, alcohol, use of f*ck, knife, trauma, threat, vivid description of fish being pierced by hook, shattered glass, noose, bleeding, rotting, description of drowning, animal death, death, nightmare, funeral, sex, mental illness, panic attacks, mention of rape, anxiety, erotic Harry Potter fanfiction, use of the word wh*re.


My thoughts

Brenna Twohy’s debut collection can only be described in one word: intense. From the first poem, I connected to Twohy’s words. As Twohy is known for her spoken word performances, you can tell by reading her poetry that the words have a life of their own. She has this succinct way of expressing herself in each poem, her dark metaphors are just what the doctor ordered.

On nights

when my body feels

more cage than shelter

and my hands ache from the rebuilding,

– Consider This Your Only Warning

Twohy’s opening poem has some beautifully dark imagery. The second and third line of the poem completely seized me. It perfectly expresses feeling trapped in your own body, your own home.

Do you really think Lazarus wasn’t angry

when they opened up his tomb?

 

Do you really think you can come back

without bringing hell with you?

– I Know It’s a Little Late

These are the final lines of Twohy’s poem, and I again was seized with emotion. How is it possible for this poet to express so much in so little? The ambiguity of the last line is overwhelming!

Why did I read it?

The title was intriguing and somewhat amusing, so I was curious.

Does the poet have other works?

Brenna Twohy will be releasing a second poetry collection titled Zig-Zag Girl.

Overall…

I am speechless with this poetry collection. It has completely purged me. If you love dark, visceral poetry, then this is for you.

– Melissa Jennings


What was the last poetry collection you read in one sitting?

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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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