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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Theatre Reviews

Review: A Streetcar Named Desire by Rapture Theatre

a streetcar named desire

Rating: ★★ (2 stars)

Play: A Streetcar Named Desire

Playwright Tennessee Williams

Director: Michael Emans

Company: Rapture Theatre

Venue: Theatre Royal Glasgow

Performance Date: 9 Sept. 2017

Summary: “Southern belle, Blanche DuBois, seeks solace with her sister, Stella, after her world starts to crumble. But her downward spiral brings her face-to-face with Stella’s husband, the sexy but brutal Stanley Kowalski. As temperatures soar and passions rise, Blanche and Stanley battle for Stella’s soul.” (Source: http://www.atgtickets.co.uk)

Content Warnings*: Domestic abuse, verbal abuse/threat, sexism, racism, vivid description of a suicide, alcoholism.

*N.B. Please note that this review is only a review of the first act of the play, I had to leave due to personal reasons.


My thoughts

Tennessee Williams’ play could have been so much more, I am gravely disappointed in this production. I was expecting much more impact from the cast as an ensemble, but only Gina Isaac (Blanche DuBois) kept the energy up. Isaac’s performance was captivating and authentic; during Blanche’s monologues, I became immersed in her poetic descriptions as Isaac’s voice was entrancing, she truly brought Blanche’s charm and wit to life.

a streetcar named desire still
Kazeem Tosin Amore (Mitch) and Gina Isaac (Blanche)

As for the rest of the cast, I was frustrated with the lack of accent work and with some, authenticity. Julia Taudevin’s performance as Stella was dry and wooden, I felt that Taudevin was overwhelmed by Isaac’s energy and relied on Isaac’s presence. In their scenes, Stella felt barely there. Additionally, Joseph Black’s performance as Stanley was pushing on caricature which was especially noticeable during Stanley’s famous cry for his wife – it ultimately felt forced which ruined the moment.

The staging was ideal as it was small and cramped for the three central characters, the pale lighting was effective, but the pale moon in the background felt superficial and added without thought.

Why did I attend this play?

I love Tennessee Williams’ work, so I had to see this.

Would I attend another Rapture Theatre production?

Next time, I think I will pass.

Overall…

A Streetcar Named Desire should have blown me away, but it simply lacked energy and authenticity from the majority of the cast.

– 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

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


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Literature Reviews

Review: Inky Black Woman by Mina Aidoo

inky black woman

Rating: ★★★ (3 stars)

Title: Inky Black Woman

Poet: Mina Aidoo

Genre: Poetry

Where to buy: Amazon

Summary: ‘Inky Black Woman’ is the debut poetry collection by London Based artist, choreographer and poet, Mina Aidoo. In this collection, Mina explores themes of identity, the body and gender. Her work considers humanity’s relationship with our environment, ourselves and our psyches. This poetry is for all those who are not afraid to play in the vast range of emotions that form the human experience. (Source: Goodreads)

Content Warnings: themes of gore, injury, pain, sexual language, sexual imagery, sexual objectification.


My thoughts

Mina Aidoo’s debut poetry collection had moments of stunning expression, but I struggled with the majority of the poetry book. I found Aidoo’s writing style rather erratic as some of the lines seemed abrupt and sudden; I felt myself having to reread over Aidoo’s poems.

There was one particular line that stood out to me and affected me greatly:

The light, wasn’t as bright

as I remembered.

– Easter

The placement of the comma creates a stillness in this observation, it is almost as if the stanza isn’t actually referring to “light” in a literal manner, but perhaps in a metaphorical way for the speaker. The line altogether is incredibly stirring and bittersweet.

Why did I read it?

I came across the collection on Kindle Unlimited and the cover was quite noticeable!

Does the poet have other works?

According to Goodreads, no.

Overall…

Inky Black Woman was, at times, all right to read, but it wasn’t my kind of poetry.

If you enjoy provocative, tumultuous poetry, then this is for you.

– Melissa Jennings


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Literature Reviews

Review: Through the looking glass by Leah Mainwaring

through the looking glass

Rating: ★★ (2 stars)

Title: Through the Looking Glass

Poet: Leah Mainwaring

Genre: Poetry

Where to buy: Amazon

Summary: Delve into the inner secret world of ” The looking glass “, this contemporary poetry Anthology uses reflections of nature and abstract concepts to convey our inner selves, introspection and worldly observations. An honest use of all ranges of self expression, from peaceful sunshine serenity to searing passion and morose melancholy. The imagery created through nature adds a refreshing quality throughout with insightful concepts of true depth. (Source: Goodreads)

Content Warnings: schizophrenia, themes of loneliness.


My thoughts 

For me, nature poetry has to do much more than descriptions, I have to connect with the imagery which this collection failed to do. I feel that Leah Mainwaring’s writing style would fit perfectly into a work of prose as the poems are rather personal and introspective and the thoughts in the poems could be fleshed out.

In addition, throughout the collection, there were also a few spelling and grammatical errors which were jarring to read. With regards to form, Mainwaring’s poetry would have benefitted with lesser rhyme schemes as the majority of their poetry felt forced.

Why did I read it?

Through the Looking Glass caught my attention while scrolling through Kindle. The title reminded me of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

Does the poet have other works?

According to Goodreads, no.

Overall…

I just didn’t like Mainwaring’s writing style or poetry content. If you like rhyming nature poetry, then this is for you.

– Melissa Jennings


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