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Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

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RATING: 5/5

BLURB: “this is the journey of

surviving through poetry

this is the blood sweat tears

of twenty-one years

this is my heart

in your hands

this is

the hurting

the loving

the breaking

the healing”

 

REVIEW: I love poetry, and am always seeking out new poets with work I can enjoy. I had wanted to read this highly praised series of poems by Rupi Kaur for some time, and picked it up on a shopping trip last weekend. I flew through the whole thing in one sitting, and put it down having felt the strangest rush of emotions. Upon finishing it I felt restless, and instantly desperate to read it again. Kaur’s poems, based on four main themes – hurting, loving, breaking and healing – instantly connect to the reader, drawing out memories and emotions evoked by the incredible thought she puts in to every verse. The book is fantastic, and even when dealing with sensitive themes that the reader may not actually have experienced, makes us feel every inch of the pain that Kaur has poured into the words. It is also an incredibly feminist text, addressing the way men view women in terms of the male gaze, sexual objectvity and even rape and abuse. Kaur’s poems put the power in the woman’s hands, and address the many ways in which men view and exploit female sexuality. I absolutely loved this book, and am eagerly awaiting payday so I can purchase Kaur’s latest release, ‘the sun and her flowers’. I will end this review with one of my favourite poems from the book, one that really struck a chord with me based on an experience I went through in the summer of last year;

“neither of us is happy

but neither of us wants to leave

so we keep breaking one another

and calling it love”

 

 

 

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Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

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RATING: 4.5/5

BLURB: “All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her spirit and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away. But when her sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl must journey to the underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds – and the mysterious man who rules it – she soon faces an impossible decision. With time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.”

REVIEW: Christina Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market’ is one of my favourite poems – in fact, Rossetti herself is among my favourite poets. My Mum even bought me a beautiful Folio Society copy of ‘Goblin Market’ and other poems for my eighteenth birthday. S. Jae-Jones was clearly inspired by the poem ‘Goblin Market’ in the writing of this fantastic novel; she quotes it at the beginning of the book and quotes a number of other poems by Rossetti throughout. The novel tells the story of Liesl, a gifted young composer who is overshadowed by her beautiful sister Kathe and her talented younger brother Josef, who looks set on his way to becoming the next Mozart. What no-one knows is that Liesl is the talent behind the music that Josef plays, and has continuously helped and inspired him, despite her compositions being scorned by her drunken father. Liesl and Josef have always had a deep belief in the stories their grandmother Constanze tells them about the Goblin King and his Underground court, and the Goblin Grove has acted as a sanctuary for them for many years. Liesl has long forgotten her childhood friendship with the young Goblin King, and the promise she once made to one day be his wife, and her belief on the stories themselves is starting to slip away. After a terrifying experience with Goblin fruit sellers at the market, however, Liesl is forced to confront the reality of the Goblin King. Her sister Kathe is taken by him and, although the rest of her family have erased Kathe from their memories, Liesl cannot. She finds her way to the Underground world of the Goblin King through her music, and manages to set Kathe free. As her price, however, she must stay Underground with the Goblin King, whom she feels a reluctant but powerful desire for. The complex relationship between Liesl and the Goblin King makes for gripping and powerful reading, the desire between the two characters so strong that it practically jumps from the page. The love that slowly begins to develop between them is so full of passion and emotion that the reader is completely sucked in by it, the sacrifices they make for each other painful to read of  – and the ultimate sacrifice that is made at the end of the novel made me cry for quite some time, though I will not spoil it here.

I absolutely loved this book. S Jae-Jones really captures the magical, fantastical, yet somehow Gothic and slightly terrifying atmosphere of much of Rossetti’s poetry, especially ‘Goblin Market’. She turns this epic poem into a beautiful, gripping story full of emotion and meaning, and I enjoyed every page. I only wish the book could have been longer!

 

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The Christmas Truce by Carol Ann Duffy

This isn’t a book review – thought I’d change things up a bit, as it’s Christmas. Carol Ann Duffy is one of my favourite poets, and a couple of years ago my Mum brought me this little illustrated book as a festive stocking filler. It’s since become one of my favourite poems, and, although it’s quite lengthy, I thought I’d type it up for you all to have a read of this Christmas; because, to me, it really seems to capture the spirit of Christmas. 

“Christmas Eve in the trenches of France,

the guns were quiet.

The dead lay still in No Man’s Land – 

Freddie, Franz, Friedrich, Frank…

The moon, like a medal, hung in the clear, cold sky.

 

Silver frost on barbed wire, strange tinsel,

sparkled and winked.

A boy from Stroud stared at a star

to meet his mother’s eyesight there.

An owl swooped on a rat on the glove of a corpse.

 

In a copse of trees behind the lines,

a lone bird sang.

A soldier-poet noted it down – a robin

holding his winter ground – 

then silence spread and touched each man like a hand.

 

Somebody kissed the gold of his ring,

a few lit pipes; 

most, in their greatcoats, huddled,

waiting for sleep.

The liquid mud had hardened at last in the freeze.

 

But it was Christmas Eve; believe, belief

thrilled the night air,

where glittering rime on unburied sons

treasured their stiff hair.

The sharp, clean, midwinter smell held memory.

 

On watch, a rifleman scoured the terrain – 

no sign of life, 

no shadows, shots from snipers,

nowt to note or report.

The frozen, foreign fields were acres of pain.

 

Then flickering flames from the other side danced in his eyes, 

as Christmas trees in their dozens shone,

candlelit on the parapets,

and they started to sing, all down the German lines.

 

Men who would drown in mud, be gassed, or shot,

or vaporised,

by falling shells, or live to tell,

heard for the first time then –

Stille Nacht. Heilige Nacht. Alles schlaft, einsam wacht… 

 

Cariad, the song was a sudden bridge,

from man to man;

a gift to the heart from home,

or childhood, some place shared…

When it was done, the British soldiers cheered.

 

A Scotsman started to bawl The First Noel

and all joined in,

till the Germans stood, seeing

across the divide, 

the sprawled, mute shapes of those who had died.

 

All night, along the Western Front they sang,

the enemies – 

carols, hymns, folk songs, anthems,

in German, English, French;

each battalion choired in its grim trench.

 

So Christmas dawned, wrapped in mist,

to open itself

and offer the day like a gift

for Harry, Hugo, Hermann, Henry, Heinz…

with whistles, waves, cheers, shouts, laughs.

 

Frohe Weihnachten, Tommy! Merry Christmas, Fritz!

A young Berliner, 

brandishing Schnapps,

was the first from his ditch to climb.

A Shropshire lad ran at him like a rhyme.

 

Then it was up and over, every man,

to shake the hand,

of a foe as a friend,

or slap his back like a brother would;

exchanging gifts of biscuits, tea, Maconochie’s stew,

 

Tickler’s jam…for cognac, sausages, cigars, beer, sauerkraut;

Or chase six hares, who jumped

from a cabbage-patch, or find a ball

and make of a battleground a football pitch.

 

I showed him a picture of my wife.

Ich zeigte ihm

ein Foto meine Frau.

Sie sei schon, sagte er.

He thought her beautiful, he said.

 

They buried the dead then, hacked spades

 into hard earth

again and again, till a score of men

were at rest, identified, blessed.

Der Herr ist mein Hirt…my shepherd, I shall not want.

 

And all that marvellous, festive day and night, 

they came and went,

the officers, the rank and file, 

their fallen comrades side by side

beneath the makeshift crosses of midwinter graves…

 

…beneath the shivering, shy stars

and the pinned moon

and the yawn of History;

the high, bright bullets

which each man later only aimed at the sky.”

 

 

 

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Love and Misadventure by Lang Leav

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RATING: 5/5

BLURB: (this book, as a collection of poetry, doesn’t really have a blurb, so I’ll choose one of my favourite poems from the collection instead)

“There is a love I reminisce,

like a seed

I’ve never sown.

 

Of lips that I am yet to kiss,

and eyes

Not met my own.

 

Hands that wrap around my wrists,

and arms

that feel like home.

 

I wonder how it is I miss,

these things

I’ve never known” – A Stranger

REVIEW: I cannot say enough wonderful things about this poet. I discovered Lang Leav through Tumblr and bought her book as I gradually discovered that many of her poems beautifully conveyed things I myself have felt or feared. Leav’s poetry is witty, memorable and cuts right to the core of the problems faced by many young women today, allowing the reader to feel an increasing sense that they are not alone. I love Leav’s poetry, and find it really helps on those down days when no words can express what we are feeling.