Posted in poetry, review

Lord Of The Butterflies – Andrea Gibson

“I think I might be trapped
in a miserable person’s body.”

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Blurb:”In Andrea Gibson’s latest collection, they continue their artful and nuanced looks at gender, romance, loss, and family. Each emotion here is deft and delicate, resting inside of imagery heavy enough to sink the heart, while giving the body wings to soar.”

Trigger Warnings: talks of depression, depictions of panic attacks, mentions of blood and school shootings.

Like with all my poets lately, I discovered Andrea Gibson through the YouTube channel Button Poetry. I became absorbed by the way she talked passionately about mental health, gender and politics. Her performances always left me completely stunned when she stepped away from the microphone at the end. So when I heard that she actually has a book, it was an absolute no-brainer.

Unlike the other poets I’m familiar with, Andrea Gibson is a very hard hitting poet. Often at times she doesn’t resort to pretty images to convey the real tragedy of what she’s trying to say. She speaks it with the blunt truth which can sometimes make  her poems incredibly hard to read and listen to; but that in itself is important. We can’t keep turning away from certain situations. What makes Andrea stand out to me is her performances: she has this passion and rage that just can’t escape attention.

Lord of The Butterflies is her latest collection and covers a range of topics from gender, to her sister, to mental health, growing up, and politics. She speaks in such a captivating and eloquent way in every single poem. I found myself having to sit back for a moment and process her words.

My favourites from this book included:

“Orlando” which pays homage to the Pulse LGBT nightclub mass shooting in Florida. It was a harrowing, heartbreaking read but some of the stanzas were so powerful that they had a lasting impact.

“Ode To The Public Panic Attack” depicts the random places a panic attack can happen along with how isolating it can feel due to the ever present stigma around anxiety and panic. This was a poem I could really relate to.

Andrea Gibson continues to be one of my favourite poems and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

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Posted in poetry, review

Date & Time – Phil Kaye

“every moment trips
over its own announcement
again and again and again
until it just hangs there
in the center
of the room as if what you had
to say had no
gravity at all.”

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Blurb:”Phil Kaye’s debut collection is a stunning tribute to growing up, and all of the challenges and celebrations of the passing of time, as jagged as it may be. Kaye takes the reader on a journey from a complex but iridescent childhood, drawing them into adolescence, and finally on to adulthood. There are first kisses, lost friendships, hair blowing in the wind while driving the vastness of an empty road, and the author positioned in the middle, trying to make sense of it all.”

I discovered Phil Kaye, like coincidentally all my favourite poets, through the Button Poetry Youtube channel. Continuing to blossom on the American poetry scene, Phil Kaye now presents his debut collection to the public.

Date & Time focuses on… well exactly what it says in the title. The concept of time is explored with Phil Kaye sharing small moments from his life in a non-linear sense. This is because while time passes by chronologically, we, as humans, are constantly looking back on significant moments in our lives or looking forward to the future with fear and uncertainty in our hearts.

This is also shown through the clever arrangement of the the book as it is split into three parts: End, Beginning, and Middle. I really loved taking this idea as the essential idea of this debut and it feels like the perfect fit given the many poems I’ve seen Phil Kaye perform in the online spaces. The “end” opens the reader to a life lived, waiting for that moment to fade away while taking time to notice in passing the events and relationships that ended long before this one.  The “beginning” depicts Phil Kaye’s early life and the childlike wonder and hope that feels all consuming before adulthood snatches them away. The “middle” represents the fork in the road: we know where we have been, but not exactly where we are going just yet.

My favourite poems from Date & Time are as follows:

“Internet Speaks Back To The Author, 2018” looks at what has been physically lost from loves to forgotten memories, and shines a light on loneliness and how the internet can reinforce that feeling.

“Repetition” is one of my all time favourite poems from Phil Kaye. It focuses on how repeating certain actions or words can cause them to lose their meaning: how if you are always up to see the sunrise then it just becomes morning, or saying “i love you” too much it becomes a hello or goodbye in a rush to somewhere else.

“My Grandmother’s Ballroom” depicts a family member’s mind as a ballroom full of people representing their memories and how they all fall apart as illness strips the mind apart.

“Yellow Bouquet” is about a boy in an arcade turning the money he’s made from the machines into a collection of rubbish with no value, but it makes him unable to wait to grow up.

Date & Time is a strong debut from Phil Kaye and I cannot wait to see where he goes next.

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Posted in feminism, poetry, review

Nothing Is Okay – Rachel Wiley

“There will be years when you feel bruised like worlds collided.
So, when they ask (and they always ask) what you are
Tell them that you are made up of whole worlds collided
Supernova beautiful in its violent right to exist.”

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Blurb: “Nothing is Okay is the second full-length poetry collection by Rachel Wiley, whose work simultaneously deconstructs the lies that we were taught about our bodies and our beings, and builds new ways of viewing ourselves. As she delves into queerness, feminism, fatness, dating, and race, Wiley moulds these topics into a punching critique of culture and a celebration of self.”

Trigger Warnings: eating disorders, body shaming and rape.

Rachel Wiley has been one of my favourite poets ever since I first saw her performance of 10 Thoughts On Being Loved By A Skinny Boy on the Button Poetry Youtube Channel. I just simply adore the “no-BS” manner she exudes during her readings and it’s actually taken me quite a while to find out that she has not one, but two, poetry collections. Nothing Is Okay features a lot of well-known poems (to those familiar with her work) such as Belly Kisses, Fat Joke, and Glory In Two Parts. The overall theme of the collection ranges from female empowerment, body image and loving yourself unapologetically.

This collection is absolutely brilliant. Rachel Wiley’s attitude just leaks from the pages and I could perfectly picture all the ways she would perform every poem in this book. So many lines and full stanzas stuck out to me that I ended the reading experience having highlighted nearly the entire collection. She has this magical way of using just the right images to convey the intended message and it’s often something the reader could never have conjured on their own. And the overall arc had the perfect mix of serious and funny.

A lot of my, already firm, favourites were in this collection but I came away with new ones such as “The Opposite Of Up” which is reverse pick-up lines and had me laughing so much I thought I might break a rib.

If you’re new to poetry, Nothing Is Okay will be the perfect way to dip your toe in the water. If you’re familiar with poetry, well it can’t hurt to indulge in this one too!

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Posted in poetry, review

The Princess Saves Herself In This One – Amanda Lovelace

“Ah, life- the thing that happens to us while we’re off somewhere else blowing on dandelions & wishing ourselves into the pages of our favorite fairy tales.”

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Blurb: “A poetry collection divided into four different parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, & you. the princess, the damsel, & the queen piece together the life of the author in three stages, while you serves as a note to the reader & all of humankind. Explores life & all of its love, loss, grief, healing, empowerment, & inspirations.”

Winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Poetry 2016, This Princess Saves Herself In This One is a poetry collection that I’m sure you’ve heard about before. Originally self-published and picked up a year later by Andrew Mcmeel Publishing, is an autobiographic insight into Amanda Lovelace’s life.

Trigger warnings: child abuse, partner abuse, sexual assault, eating disorders, self-harm, alcoholism, death, suicide, cancer and grief.

I often find it hard to review poetry because it’s something so personal; the lives of the writer pouring themselves on the pages with imagery and metaphors. This book reads almost like a diary at points that the thoughts and feelings expressed were meant for no one else to see and that created this bond. It felt like I was connected to the writer and she laid out the story arc of her life before me.

In terms of the triggers listed above, the big chunk of them are littered among the “Princess” section which chronicles an abusive family relationship and mental illness. “The Damsel” section is also quite heavy reading as the story shifts to a girl who makes herself someone who needs to be saved.  My personal favourite is “The Queen” in which the girl decides to save herself (hence the title) and starts to fight back, finally realising that she is worthy of so much more than she believed before and that she can indeed pick herself back up. Universally, from other reviews, the final section “you” is the most popular with many praising it for the feminist themes. “You” is a call to arms where the attention shifts to the reader, addressing them directly. The poems in this section  are a reminder to the reader to take care of themselves, bestowing the writer’s wisdom and everything she’s learnt. The latter two sections were definitely my favourites and ones I will no doubt revisit in the future.

However, it’s hard not to notice the mixed reviews with many sarcastically writing their reviews in the forms of some poems in the book while others flat out criticise the form, saying it is quite simply not poetry. I can understand where these points of view come from as a lot of the poems are more one sentence statements than many would consider poetry, and I did flick through a lot of the shorter ones without much thought.

This is a collection I would pick up again in a heartbeat and happily analyse the poems in a different way since I discovered after-the-fact that this collection is about Amanda Lovelace’s life.

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Posted in contemporary, poetry, review, young adult

Moonrise – Sarah Crossan

“People are gonna be telling you all kinds of
Lies.
I need you to know the truth.”

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Blurb: “Joe hasn’t seen his brother for ten years, and it’s for the most brutal of reasons. Ed is on death row. But now Ed’s execution date has been set, and Joe is determined to spend those last weeks with him, no matter what other people think.”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Joe’s life was turned upside down when he received a phone call revealing that his brother, Ed, was going to prison on a murder charge. The family happens to live in a state where the death penalty is a punishment and when Ed’s execution date is confirmed, Joe struggles even more.

Sticking to her usual unique style, Moonrise is another free verse novel from Sarah Crossan. The use of this format to tell the story creates a simplicity that really hits you in the gut. The story doesn’t rely on fancy metaphors or deep imagery to make the reader feel something (though I want to express that using metaphors/imagery is not a bad thing either). It just further highlights Crossan’s talents.

The story is told through snapshots in time. The reader gets an insight into Joe’s childhood and memories with his brother as the execution fate draws closer. This, along with the writing format, makes it impossible not to feel something.

This is a heart-wrenching read tackling the idea of how to cope with losing a loved one.

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Posted in book event, discussion, poetry

Poetry Event | Neil Hilborn

“I saw the future, I did,
and in it,
I was alive.”

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I never used to really be into poetry. Despite having a degree partly in English Literature, having to constantly analyse poems made it really hard to love them outside of a classroom. A friend of mine is a poet and, when I shared these concerns, introduced me to a channel called Button Poetry and his favourite performance poet Neil Hilborn whose main focuses are around mental health as he has OCD. When the announcement of a UK tour was made, it seemed wrong to pass up on it so me and a couple of friends – who all love his poetry – decided to make it a small friend reunion.

I try to pretend that my anxiety disorder is not as crippling it is because sometimes it makes me worry about completely unnecessary things but it’s been a just over a year since I passed my driving test and driving places I’ve never been before still fills me with a sense of dread. But I knew I needed to push myself and one of my friends had driven to Birmingham before so was able to help me navigate along with a sat nav. I am so ridiculously proud of myself for forcing myself to do it; even if my muscles were clenched for the whole journey. We met up with my other friend who’d got her train to Birmingham to meet us and we had dinner to catch up and explored the city. Of course, we took a trip to Waterstones and I was quick to pick up a copy of the newly released Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo.

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We then indulged in more food and made our way over to The Glee Club which was the venue for the performance. The capacity was 420 people and the event was sold out. I’ve been to poetry nights before but never solely to see one poet so I had no idea what to expect.

It’s hard to put into words what it feels like to experience something. Especially when it’s visual. Neil Hilborn’s poetry is so deep, intricate, and complex. To watch him on that stage, pausing as he looked at the floor and taking a deep breath before putting all of his heart and soul into getting those feelings across in his performances felt almost like we’d stumbled into something that was meant to be private.  He even broke away halfway through poems to joke about some of the lines he’s written which just added a little extra humour and a more human element to it. But honestly, I forgot that I was in a tiny room in a comedy club in Birmingham. Listening to these poems with the actual poet in front of me felt like being in a different world.

Surprisingly, after his show had finished, there was the opportunity to meet him. I felt bad not having a copy of his book (I read it on Kindle) and no cash to buy any that were available at the merch table so when I finally did get to meet him I started off by pointing this out and how I felt terrible. He shook my hand and I told him about my anxiety and how listening to his poem The Future helps me when I get into a state where doing every day things becomes difficult. The irony of the situation was that I was on the brink of having a panic attack while thanking him for helping me… not have panic attacks. But I mean, one of the greatest modern poets was sitting in front of me, staring at me and listening to what I was saying. After that, he signed a little card for me and we got a photo.

We then said goodbye to the friend who’d gotten the train and got back in my car where I had to do the whole awful journey in reverse; which turned out to be very eventful as the junction I needed to get off the motorway was closed so we ended up with a lengthy detour.

I feel so honoured to have this experience and getting to meet the man behind all the words and videos I’ve consumed over the past few years. I often find it’s too easy to see people through a screen and forget that they are just that: people.

I’m going to end this post with Neil Hilborn’s performance of The Future which I hope will encourage you to look further into his poetry.

 

Posted in contemporary, poetry, review

No Matter The Wreckage – Sarah Kay

“He gave me back his eyelashes,
the back of his neck, his palms. We held every piece we were given like it was a nectarine – might bruise if we weren’t careful- we collected them like we were trying to build an orchard.”

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Blurb: “In her powerful debut collection of poetry, Sarah Kay navigates a decade’s worth of writing to present us with a book that combines new poems and beloved favourites. Both fresh and wise, Sarah Kay’s poetry invites us to join her on the journey of discovering herself and the world around her.”

I had never read poetry of my own free will. By that I mean I hadn’t read poetry that wasn’t something being studied in the confines of a classroom. It was an art form that I never really paid much attention to until I made friends with someone at university a few years ago who loved poetry and was a poet himself. He introduced me to a YouTube channel called Button Poetry which features lived performances from poets (mainly America based). One day a video popped up of a performance from a woman named Sarah Kay in which she presented her poem The Type I was simply in awe. Her performance was pure magic and it was hard to believe that four minutes had passed by so quickly. I have followed her ever since. However, it was only recently that I discovered she actually had a book out in the world.

Sarah Kay has gathered over 12 million views online and leapt onto the poetry scene with her Ted Talks such as If I Should Have A Daughter. This collection included poems from ten years of her life and they’re just as beautiful to read as they are to hear.

It was nice to come back to personal favourites such as “Private Parts” and “Montauk” along while developing some new favourites.  It’s really hard to explain Sarah’s poetry without shoving it in your face and screaming “READ IT.” She has a way of stringing together words and ideas that just make you sit there amazed that someone has finally found a way to put certain thoughts and feelings into words. I genuinely believe her poetry is the closest thing to pure magic.

I highly recommend you check out both her poetry book and her live performances.

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