Literature Reviews

Review: charcoal thunderstorms by Cheyenne Raine

semicolon ; (1).png

Rating: ★★★★

Title: charcoal thunderstorms

Author: Cheyenne Raine

Genre: Poetry

Publication: 2017, Amazon Createspace

Content Warnings: themes of threat, war, death, bodily harm,

Summary: “charcoal thunderstorms is a collection that dances with a more youthful and adventurous escape of poetry. the book has eighty poems divided into five chapters and six short stories and tales. the paperback version allows for the reader to create art within the pages where the poems dwell. there is an art to loving a storm, here is where it begins.” (Source: Goodreads)


My thoughts

*I was given a free PDF copy by the author in exchange for a review. *

charcoal thunderstorms is a wondrous poetry collection. Cheyenne’s aim of the collection is to entice the reader into remembering their childhood and their childhood imagination. As we grow older, we often forget the magic that exists in everyday life, from the sun rising in the morning to the glowing stars in the night sky.

won’t you open the door,

let in a little noise,

a little chaos,

a little bit of everything

you forgot to enjoy?

young & living, p.109

Cheyenne’s collection immerses you in different realities to remind you of what is important. The poetry book is divided into six distinct sections, 5 of which are poetry sections and the sixth and final section contains short stories. My favourite sections were royalty and war, monsters and magic, and wilderness and city. I connected to the majority of Cheyenne’s poems in these sections because I was very much an adventurous child.

i hope you are somewhere

running in a forest,

barefoot, with your wolves

running with wolves, wilderness and city, p.49

I think what is fantastic about Cheyenne’s collection is that everyone will identify with different parts of the collection. However, I struggled to connect to the short stories at the end of the collection, they were lovely to read, but I didn’t know what to take away from them. I did like ‘starting with the sea’ as it had a poetic quality and ocean metaphors are the best!


Why did I read it?

Cheyenne was looking for book bloggers to review this collection, and because I loved their other poetry collection, maroon daydreams, I just had to read the next!


Do I recommend this?

If you enjoy being whisked away to another world or to another time, then this poetry collection is for you.


Does the author have other works?

Cheyenne Raine has written other poetry collections such as maroon daydreams, lavender petals and a wild heart, and One Hundred and One.


Until next time,

Melissa (1)


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Literature Reviews

Review: Semicolon ; by McKayla Debonis

semicolon ;

Rating: ★★★★★

Title: Semicolon ;

Author: McKayla Debonis

Genre: Poetry

Publication, 2017, Amazon Createspace

Content Warnings:  “anxiety, descriptions of panic attacks, sexual abuse/harassment, depression, suicidal tendencies, self-harm, body dysmorphia.” (Source: Author)

Summary: “A Collection of poetry that uncovers the raw and heavy emotions that come with anxiety, trauma, and other experiences.

Part two takes you into the healing, bringing the light, the meditation, the beauty in finding oneself after all the chaos has passed.

& finally, you’re left wanting to start your next chapter; the one that comes after the semicolon.” (Source: Goodreads)


My thoughts

I had the honour of being a beta reader for McKayla’s latest collection, and let me tell you, folks, YOU ARE IN FOR A RIDE. Semicolon is a beautiful poetry collection. Truly. However, do not be mistaken when I say “beautiful”, I do not mean the kind that is pleasing to the eye, I mean the kind that stares right into your soul and wakes you up.

The poetry collection is divided into two sections, or rather two separate “sentences” which are connected by a semicolon. The first section/sentence concerns a painful, numb existence. McKayla’s descriptions are tangible to the point you feel as if you are a spectator. There is haunting imagery throughout the first section, so please make sure to read the content warnings above. There are some poems which just blew me away upon first reading, I just stared at the page in awe. McKayla’s writing comes from a place of truth and that is evident.

i folded each edge seamlessly

carefully crafting my points

hiding myself away from the world

– in perfect creases, p.32

I connected with the majority of McKayla’s poetry. The collection ebbs and flows, just like a sentence. The collection transitions into a much brighter place where you feel yourself being repaired as each poem goes on. You are enchanted and uplifted into this new existence, but also reminded to remember that healing is not linear, that we must always remember to continue after a “semicolon”.

i’m falling back in love with the big heart

inside my chest

– loving myself all over again as if it’s brand new, p.55

This particular line in the second section struck a chord with me. I love this notion of falling in love with yourself and your heart, it is not something society teaches us explicitly. Having read the previous dark section of the book, this particular line felt like the “heart” of the collection. Pun intended!

This collection was so beautiful to read that I had a good cry after it, and some of McKayla’s words have stayed with me long after reading.


Why did I read it?

I loved McKayla’s first collection, Bones in the Garden, so I knew I had to be one of the first to read the latest poetry book!

Do I recommend this?

If you love cathartic, deep poetry, then this is for you. I loved reading this!

Does the author have other works?

YES! McKayla has written another poetry collection which was published earlier this year, titled Bones in the Garden. I reviewed it here.


Until next time,

Melissa (1)


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Literature Reviews

Review: A Scattering by Christopher Reid

a scattering (1)

Rating: ★★★

Title: A Scattering

Author: Christopher Reid

Genre: Poetry

Publication: 2009, Areté

Content Warnings: cancer, death, illness

Summary: “A tribute to the author’s wife consisting of poems written during her final illness and after her death.” (Source: Goodreads)


My thoughts

A Scattering is a stirring poetry collection about the time before, during, and after the author’s wife’s illness. It was quite a short collection, mainly focusing on the author’s grief and loss. It would be reasonable to say that the author was attempting to find meaning in this period of time. Throughout the collection, there is this desperate tone, almost “a scattering of thoughts” as the author captures the small moments in his wife’s illness as well as reflection on their past. Further, the author questions his own identity during and after his wife’s illness.

I’m the riddle to an answer:

I’m an unmarried spouse,

a flesh-and-blood revenant,

my own ghost, inhabitant

of an empty house.

– Conundrum, p.37

The poems were well written. I connected with some of the poems, but the majority of the poems were too personal for me to connect to. I have the utmost respect for the author for sharing their work with the world, especially a work so sensitive. 

There was one line which is a thought I have had myself when dealing with a death of a close family member:

Can’t you now somehow contrive

to be both dead and alive?

– Lucinda’s Way, p.54


Why did I read it?

I came across this poetry book in a second-hand bookstore, its title caught my attention.

Do I recommend this? 

Yes, it is incredibly well written and truly a beautiful read.

Does the author have other works?

Christopher Reid has written other poetry collections such as The Song of Lunch, Expanded Universes, and Nonsense.


Until next time,

Melissa (1)


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Literature Reviews

Review: I Danced With Sorrow by Alicia Wright

I danced with sorrow.png

Rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)

Title: I Danced With Sorrow

Poet: Alicia Wright

Genre: Poetry

Where to buy: Amazon

Summary: “I Danced with Sorrow is a collection of short verse poetry detailing the journey of one girl as she struggles to come to terms with what she has endured. It is split into five sections. Each is centred on a different aspect of her life, tackling various topics such as heartbreak, abuse, and finding liberation through creativity. Some of the main themes included are love, life, death, hope, loss, and the rebuilding of self. I Danced with Sorrow encourages the reader to explore the darker aspects of life, and reminds them that even after the chaos, there is still light.” (Source: Goodreads)

Content Warnings: abuse, family estrangement, bullets, blood, death, low self-esteem, body negativity, sexual imagery, poor mental health, war, one moment of violent sexual imagery, suffocation.


My thoughts

Wright’s debut poetry collection is incredibly immersive; the images, questions, worlds created and explored will stay with you long after you have finished.

And so, you came,

and, unlike words,

you went away.

(Moving Forward, p.67)

Wright’s writing style is fantastical yet authentic. The poetry collection evidently draws from real life experiences, however, I struggled to connect with some of the poems as I felt some of the poems were forced. This is probably just down to personal taste.

I also wish the collection had a content warning as some of the imagery was quite intense. Additionally, I felt some of the typography was a tad random, in particular, the capitalisation at the beginning of each line in some poems, but again, this is down to personal taste.

Nonetheless, some of Wright’s poems hit me hard:

What good is your crown

if it’s made of thorns

and carries the weight of your guilt?

(The Reckoning, p.64)

This poem is so powerful, so much so that I had to stop for a few minutes to absorb it.

But, to bear your words was

to shoulder mountains.

(What Changed Her, p.24)

This is an incredible metaphor. The line conveys the core meaning of the collection: survival. This poem will stay with me for a long time.

Why did I read it?

I received a free copy of I Danced With Sorrow from the author. Thank you Alicia!

Does the poet have other works?

According to Goodreads, sadly not.

Overall…

An incredibly varied poetry collection that does not let you go. Wright’s writing style is captivating, all of your senses are engaged.

– Melissa Jennings


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Literature Reviews

Review: Like a Moonless Night by Melissa Murphy

like a moonless night

Rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)

Title: Like a Moonless Night

Poet: Melissa Murphy

Genre: Poetry

Where to buy: Amazon

Summary: To bring the reader inside the complexity of her mental illness and break-up, writer Melissa Murphy uses poetry to relay a troubled personal narrative on depression and loss. She cannot share with you the half of it, but, as she attempts to do so, one becomes equally entranced and taken aback by the work she delivers without discretion. To be so honest, yet, at the same time, ambivalent about the play of events that led to the break-up, Murphy understands that memory is a construction of the mind, cherry-picked to comforting perfection. (Source: Goodreads)

Content Warnings: “mentions of depression, eating disorders, suicide and other stressors” (Source: the author’s own content warning)


My thoughts

Melissa Murphy’s words purged me. As a reader, you are taken through moments of desperation, dysphoria, and desolation, and you are transfixed. As the poetry book draws on mental illness, I instantly connected with some of Murphy’s poems:

I draw from

what problems

I have – like depression,

the constant rowing

of staying in place,

floating.

– Circular Waves

Circular Waves perfectly describes what it is like to have depression and what it is like to keep going at the same time – it is a fight that normally depression wins, in my case. The final lines really convey the idea of wanting to be productive, but depression is an anchor to our energy, motivation, and thoughts.

The next line is possibly my favourite out of Murphy’s poetry collection:

Above me, darkness,

stars dabbed out

by my wet breath.

– Death of the Virgin

I have re-read this line so many times and I still don’t know why I love it. There is something supernatural and yet empowering about this line, as if one could control the universe with just their breath.

I didn’t connect to all of the poetry, in particular, the prose ones as they were quite personal and subjective.

Why did I read it?

A friend of mine had 5-starred it, so I was curious what it contained.

Does the poet have other works?

According to Goodreads, no. (Please note, at the time of writing this review, the Goodreads database has several books under this author’s name, but I’m sure they weren’t written by this Melissa Murphy).

Overall…

Murphy’s poetry collection is earnest in its delivery as it truly delves into what it means to have mental illnesses. However, I struggled to connect with some of the poems. If you like honest, engrossing poetry, then this is for you.

– Melissa Jennings


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Literature Reviews

Review: All the Things I Never Said by Mae Krell

all the things i never said

Rating: ★★ (2 stars)

Title: All The Things I Never Said

Poet: Mae Krell

Genre: Poetry

Where to buy: Amazon

Summary: All The Things I Never Said is a collection of poetry and journal-like entries. Throughout the pages you will experience heartbreak, happiness, sadness, and be reminded of what it was like to be a teenager. (Source: Goodreads)

Content Warnings: body negativity, loss, substance abuse, self-harm, death, suicide, cancer, addiction, eating disorder.


My thoughts 

This collection was difficult to rate as due to its autobiographical nature, it was truthful, yet it lacked clarity, impact, and coherence. In their introduction, Mae Krell describes the difficulty of putting words down on paper and how we need to simply jot everything down for future reference, which is great advice in my opinion, however, the poetry/prose collection was simply not precise enough for me to connect to Krell’s thoughts.

(TW: suicide, self-harm, cancer) One of Krell’s poems stood out to me for all the wrong reasons:

All the suicidal kids
with all their cuts and pills
no matter how hard they try
they just can’t get it right
because they were born to live
All the cancerous kids
with all their smiles and tears
no matter how hard they try
they just can’t get it right
because they were born
to die

– Suicidal and Cancerous

Using cancerous as an adjective was not a good choice, Krell could have used destructive instead as my mind automatically went to cancer. As I read the last stanza, I was disgusted that the poet insinuated that people who have cancer “were born to die”. The word choice and construction of this particular poem was horrific and ultimately brought my rating down a star.

Why did I read it?

I am intrigued by the “unspoken” in poetry.

Does the poet have other works?

According to Goodreads, no.

Overall…

This collection needs a lot of editing as it was repetitive in places and lacking impact.

If you like autobiographical poetry, then this is for you.


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Literature Reviews

Review: You Are The Map by Michelle Tudor

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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


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