Reviews: The Heart is Improvisational by Various and Depression & Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim

theheartisimprovisationalThe Heart is Improvisational by Various

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: September 1st, 2017

Publisher: Guernica Editions

Pages: 130 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Poets attribute an array of roles and capacities to the involuntary muscle. The heart becomes a repository of erotic and familial love, and a sanctuary for memory. The poets explore the flux of the heart’s responses and instigations: the heart’s tender overtures, its joyous pulse, its mating call for the other, its changeable temperament, its final tick in freeze-frame. Among the poets featured: Kenneth Sherman, Lorna Crozier, Marilyn Bowering, Roo Borson, Patrick Lane, Charles Bukowski, Eugénio de Andrade, John Barton, Robyn Sarah, and Mary di Michele.

____________________________________________________________

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a poetry collection featuring works from a wide variety of authors, all giving their unique perspectives on the most important part of human life—the heart. It was an extremely hit or miss collection for me, and I found it very hard to get into. In general, I tended to prefer the poems that focused on the less tangible, more emotional views of the heart, rather than the technical and clinical depictions. To me, the poems that spoke from essentially a medical perspective felt like reading a biology textbook—albeit a lyrical one—rather than a poetry collection.

All of the writers who contributed are extremely talented; all of the writing was strong and skilled. In my opinion, however, the flow of the writing—both individually and as a whole—was definitely broken up by the ones that focused more on fact than feeling. Of course, not all poetry needs to be abstract and romantic. The freedom to be whatever the writer wants it to be is one of the reasons why this is such a wonderful vehicle for creativity and expression. But for me, I think I just prefer poems that creatively expand on the emotional rather than the physical.

3.0 TARDISes

depressionandothermagictricksDepression & Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: August 22nd, 2017

Publisher: Button Poetry

Pages: 80 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Depression & Other Magic Tricks is the debut book by Sabrina Benaim, one of the most-viewed performance poets of all time, whose poem “Explaining My Depression to My Mother” has become a cultural phenomenon with over 5,000,000 views.

Depression & Other Magic Tricks explores themes of mental health, love, and family. It is a documentation of struggle and triumph, a celebration of daily life and of living. Benaim’s wit, empathy, and gift for language produce a work of endless wonder.

____________________________________________________________

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This collection was all right, but I found it to be just a bit disappointing. I had heard a little bit about Sabrina Benaim prior to picking this up, so I was quite eager to experience her work. However, though I did enjoy it to some extent, this collection wasn’t quite as good I was expecting it to be. The poems themselves were quality—Benaim has quite a talent for expressing herself in a vivid way, and speaks intelligently on many subjects that can be difficult to fully comprehend. However, while I did enjoy this collection, it did not click with me in the way I would have liked. Her writing style did not flow overly well for me so I never quite got fully into it.

I thought Benaim’s way of tapping into and clearly conveying her feelings was very good, and it was easy to connect to her and feel her emotions on a deep level. Despite my feelings on the collection overall, I could definitely see how raw and poignant her words were. These poems deal with many of Benaim’s personal experiences in her life so far, and sheds some light on her experience with depression—a great way to help open minds on the subject of mental illness. I wish I had enjoyed it a bit more, but overall, I think this is a beautiful collection that many readers will love and relate to.

3.0 TARDISes

logo2

Review: The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One by Amanda Lovelace

35924698The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One by Amanda Lovelace

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Women Are Some Kind of Magic #2

Date Published: March 6th, 2018

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 208 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: 2016 Goodreads Choice Award-winning poet Amanda Lovelace returns in the witch doesn’t burn in this onethe bold second book in her “women are some kind of magic” series.

The witch: supernaturally powerful, inscrutably independent, and now—indestructible. These moving, relatable poems encourage resilience and embolden women to take control of their own stories. Enemies try to judge, oppress, and marginalize her, but the witch doesn’t burn in this one.

____________________________________________________________

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Unfortunately, this collection of poetry ended up really disappointing me. After the fantastic first collection, The Princess Saves Herself in This One, I felt rather let down by this one. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed it quite a bit, but I didn’t think it was on par with Lovelace’s previous work. Her first collection tells a story of her life—a personal journey of discovery with messages that evoke intense and relatable emotions. Alongside these poems, there is a loose fairytale-type narrative going on at the end of each section, and they reflect every part of her journey.

That same format of the background story is true for this collection, but the poems deal with broader topics, so they don’t have that same intimate quality as her previous poetry. Lovelace deals with some incredibly tough matters here, and she does so in a very eye-opening way. However, though I of course applaud the fact that she is speaking out on these subjects, I just personally did not feel as emotionally invested in the poems, and I found them a bit repetitive at times.

One of the things that still rings true in this collection is Lovelace’s incredible talent for writing beautiful and impactful poetry. Though these particular poems did not resonate with me quite as much as her others, her words are still extremely powerful and relatable. Everything she has to say is thought-provoking and empowering, but the messages she is trying to convey come across as somewhat one-sided at times.

She has a very strong feminist voice, though I felt that she approached the topic in more of an all-or-nothing style rather than speaking in an equal and balanced way. Feminism, and any type of empowerment movement in general, should not focus on being dominant over others, but should instead focus on creating equality among all. I still do very much enjoy Lovelace’s poetry, so I definitely plan on continuing to read her work in the future.

3.0 TARDISes

logo2

Mini Review: She Felt Like Feeling Nothing by r.h. Sin

shefeltlikefeelingnothingShe Felt Like Feeling Nothing by r.h. Sin

My Rating: 1.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: April 10th, 2018

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 144 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: From the bestselling author of the Whiskey, Words, and a Shovel series comes this poetic reminder of women’s strength.

There are moments when the heart no longer wishes to feel because everything it’s felt up until then has brought it nothing but anguish. In She Felt Like Feeling Nothing, r.h. Sin pursues themes of self-discovery and retrospection. With this book, the poet intends to create a safe space where women can rest their weary hearts and focus on themselves.

____________________________________________________________

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is r.h. Sin’s newest collection, and though it was slightly better than Planting Gardens in Graves, it still felt incredibly underwhelming. Once again, my biggest complaint is the repetitiveness of the subject matter. I feel like the more collections I read, the less engaged with the text I become. And I absolutely hate to feel that way because I truly believe Sin could be a good writer and feminist voice.

Rehashing the same topic does not do justice to what skill he might have as a writer, and it overshadows the way he is trying to capture complex emotions in such a short space. I am feeling like less and less heart and substance is being put into these words. His use of the short, simple poems or phrases is feeling even more forced and random—it is not contributing to whatever sincerity or impact he is attempting to convey.

This time around, Sin put in some connection between some of his poems, making a bit of a story out of them. While I absolutely love that idea, the only problem with it was the fact that every poem is essentially the same, just worded differently. In fact, that was the case for the entire collection. The more I read his work, the worse my opinion becomes—mainly because of the predictability subject-wise—but also because it comes across as patronizing and self-absorbed.

While reading his work, I always come to some point where I feel like he’s treating us more like objects or—dare I say it—”mansplaining” our emotions, and even what it’s like to be a woman, to us. These poems feel less like speaking up to empower women and more like Sin bragging about the fact that he thinks he is the best man/partner in the world because he is supposedly the only one who understands absolutely everything about women.

I realize that my reviews of his collections are getting extremely repetitive, but they are reflecting the exact same feeling I’m getting from his work. It is the same condescending, somewhat contradicting, and occasionally crude musings on the same topics in every single collection. He needs to be more unique. We need more of the originality that I believe he could be capable of giving. I am interested in reading his Whisky, Words, and a Shovel trilogy of poetry collections, but going forward, I am not sure that the chance of me picking up any of his future works will be particularly high.

1.5 TARDISes

logo2

Review: Planting Gardens in Graves by r.h. Sin

plantinggardensingravesPlanting Gardens in Graves by r.h. Sin

My Rating: 1.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: February 6th, 2018

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 272 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: From the beloved author of Whiskey, Words, and a Shovel comes the first volume in an all new series.

r.h. Sin returns with a force in Planting Gardens in Gravesa powerful collection of poetry that hones in on the themes dearest to his readers. This original volume celebrates connection, mourns heartbreak, and above all, empowers its readers to seek the love they deserve.

____________________________________________________________

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

My r.h. Sin saga continues. After reading A Beautiful Composition of Broken, things went even more downhill when it came to this particular collection. It started off well enough, with short but sweet, impactful poetry. Each poem had the nice flow and depth that he has always showed, and the way he words everything is beautiful. There were even a few poems that touched on very different topics than the rest—some of the most powerful ones being about his own experiences with other types of love than romantic. However, every other poem was exactly the same as what he usually writes, thus making it feel like all of his collections are identical.

This time around, the style of short but powerful lines did not work in his favor. Many of the poems felt incredibly choppy and forced, like he had cut off each line at random rather than with a specific purpose. There was a sizable loss of depth due to the way that was carried out. Another strike against the collection for me that ties into this was how much subtlety he lacked when it came to conveying the messages in certain parts of his work. This stripped away anything poetic about those poems and, therefore, they lost their emotional impact. This is entirely personal, but some even felt rather crude to me.

Once again, he remains stuck on pretty much the same topic for the entire collection, each poem feeling like a differently worded version of the others. And while his focus on the strength of women is nice to see in literature, he simultaneously portrays men as being horrible and himself as being the only one worthy of being with a woman. I appreciate the feminism he is trying for and, of course, love the fact that it is becoming more prevalent in the literary world. But what I in general will never appreciate is anything that lifts any group of people higher than another—that is not what feminism is about or how equality is achieved.

Overall, the majority of this collection unfortunately failed to accomplish what I believe he was trying to. Speaking as a woman, sometimes his poems are affirming, but after awhile, I began to feel like he was treating us like we are possessions rather than humans. I believe Sin has a talent for writing beautiful poetry, but that does not come across as well when he refuses to diversify his subject matter. The few poems that touched on love that isn’t romantic were wonderful and refreshing. In the future, it would be great to see him focus more on that, even aspects of his life and more personal experiences.

1.5 TARDISes

logo2

Mini Review: Algedonic by r.h. Sin

algedonicAlgedonic by r.h. Sin

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: December 12th, 2017

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 128 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Bestselling poet r.h. Sin, author of the Whiskey, Words, & a Shovel series, presents a poetry collection that illuminates the transformative power of emotional pain. 

Algedonic is an aesthetic outlook on pain and pleasure. Complex emotions simplified into poetic interludes as only r.h. Sin can express. With his trademark of giving simplicity to some of the hardest of emotions, Sin reminds us all that there are often two sides to an emotional story and sometimes the pain transforms into something beautiful, something less problematic and maybe something that reignites a feeling of pleasure.

____________________________________________________________

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This was my first experience with r.h. Sin’s poetry, though I have heard many people raving about his work for quite some time now. And I must say, I was not disappointed in the least. This particular collection follows what has become a very popular style lately—short poems or phrases that pack a big emotional punch. While it can be quite a risky way to format poetry, as it ends up being extremely hit or miss depending on the audience, it can also be a very powerful and thought-provoking reading experience.

Even though I am a huge fan of longer poems that I can analyze to death, I have actually found myself really captivated by this style lately, and this collection is no exception. I found Sin’s writing to be incredibly beautiful. This is a short but sweet collection that is perfect for anyone, whether they are new to poetry or already well-versed. The themes presented in every bit of text are relatable—utterly human—and exceedingly poignant.

Sin’s ability to pare down complex and, at times, confusing feelings, both positive and negative, really shines through. He shows that it is possible to capture the vastness of human emotion in the smallest of spaces. His words make you think about how we are not as alone as we may feel—that we are all intrinsically linked by common experiences of pain and pleasure. He reminds us to step back and focus on the beauty of life and the light in the darkest times. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection and look forward to exploring more of his work in the future.

4.0 TARDISes

 

logo2

Mini Review: Vertigo: Of Love & Letting Go by Analog De Leon

vertigoVertigo: Of Love & Letting Go by Analog De Leon

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: November 21st, 2017

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 176 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: In this modern epic poem, poet Analog de Leon (Chris Purifoy) offers an empowering message to anyone who has loved, lost, or yearned for freedom. 

Inspired by the life of Syrian Saint Simeon Stylites, a 4th-century Monk who lived for many years on a small platform atop a pillar, Vertigo encourages introspection, contemplation, and self-love.

____________________________________________________________

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I was intrigued by the description of this work when I first discovered it, but I also was not quite sure what to expect from it going in. The whole concept of a modern epic poem sounded very unique, and I was eager to see what a present day take on this classic form of literature would be like. I assumed I might end up being sort of skeptical and critical given not only my general pickiness when it comes to poetry, but also because of the unconventional nature of this particular work. However, I ended up enjoying every aspect of this far more than I could have anticipated—it definitely exceeded my expectations.

As this is an epic poem, it is all one connected story rather than a collection of individual poems. Because of this style, it is broken up into small, simple sections of text, punctuated by beautiful and surreal illustrations that work to enhance the overall atmosphere the poem gives off. Everything comes together to radiate the enormity of the world of human emotion, as well as the vast expanse of universe itself compared to us as humans. Each little piece is quite straightforward, and they slowly build on each other to create the journey of the narrator as he acknowledges the pain of loss and the great power of love. As a whole, there is so much depth and positivity to be found within the full message that this work conveys. Personally, the strength in the text and the accompanying imagery really made quite an impact on me.

One other extremely interesting and unique aspect of this poem is the online media that can be viewed in connection with it. The book provides links to a website that takes you on a virtual tour through the same emotions and message that the actual text does. With animations in the style of the illustrations in the poem and atmospheric music to listen to as you read, this becomes a very distinctive reading experience. Overall, this is the type of modern poetry that I have come to love—poetry that uses fairly simple and easily accessible language to express much deeper emotions and cause significant personal introspection. Everyone will have a truly personal journey with this poem.

4.0 TARDISes

logo2

Mini Review: Cheer Up, Jay Ritchie by Jay Ritchie

cheerupjayritchieCheer Up, Jay Ritchie by Jay Ritchie

My Rating: 1/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: October 10th, 2017

Publisher: Coach House Books

Pages: 96 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: “Charming, funny, and often elegant. This is a formidable collection.” —Ben Fama 

With an alternating sense of wonder and detachment, Jay Ritchie’s first full-length collection of poetry grapples with death, disappointment, love, alienation, and emails—the large and small subjects of daily life. His unflagging sense of humor and aphoristic delivery create a work that is personable yet elevated, witty, and honest.

____________________________________________________________

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I’ve been reviewing a lot of poetry recently, so I will start off with my usual disclaimer—poetry is an incredibly personal experience that is unique to each reader, and it is extremely hard to review. What works for someone might not for another, and unfortunately, I happen to fall in the latter category for this particular collection. And from what I’ve been seeing, I have the less common feelings about this work, though I do believe that this is one of those very hit or miss type situations. Don’t get me wrong, I can definitely see the poetic talent of Ritchie, however, his choppy and random writing style did not flow very well with me.

To be honest—and this is a little embarrassing to admit—I had a hard and sometimes impossible time actually understanding just what Ritchie was writing about. His poems were somehow simultaneously humorous and fun to read, but also unintelligible. They were well written and interesting for what they were, but I failed to find much meaning in any of them, therefore making it very hard for me to connect with this collection. Again, this is just my personal experience with Ritchie’s poetry—it will not be the same as everyone’s, and my view on it may have been affected by many factors, including my mindset while reading it. It was a very quick read and, as always, I recommend giving it a go and experiencing his work for yourself.

1.0 TARDIS

logo2