Category Archives: Book Review

Sway This Way | Anne with an E by April Michelle Bratten | Review

Anne with an E by April Michelle Bratten
$7 / order from Dancing Girl Press / review by Donna-Marie Riley

Here’s the problem: the more I like something, the less I feel able to articulate what it has done to me, what the effect was and why and wow and wonder. There is something deeply rich about this collection, something dense and rippling and luxuriant.

Anne with an E
is a collection based on L.M Montgomery’s novel Anne of Green Gables and its subsequent sequels. I have never read Anne of Green Gables, don’t know even the general plot of it, couldn’t tell you a single one of its characters beyond Anne for whom it’s named and yet, despite all of that, despite my stunning lack of context, April Michelle Bratten’s Anne with an E took me by the wrists and held me flush against the wall, panting. That is to say: this collection unapologetically seduced me. There is a girlishness to these poems, yes, a young implacably sweet voice, and yet it is constantly interjected by something deeply erotic and half perverse. Something straining against the misjudgements that have been made about it. Something desperate to prove it’s not quite as innocent as it has been mistaken for.

Bratten is a poet who seems to know poetry, seems to have studied it before beginning to speak it. The language is hypnotic, rolls like the hips of a woman who knows her own power. Shows up to the party showing just enough leg and meets the eyes of anyone looking.

I am thrilled by these poems, so much so that anything I say on them doesn’t match up to the feeling they instil in me. I sing the praises of Bratten and Anne alike, and I thank them both for having caught me so off guard. Do not miss out on this. Let it stir your blood.


A few of my favourite quotes include:

…then I know he loves me, no-words-deeply.

—from “Matthew, a conch shell”


I could tell you about leaving, about sinning,
about swinging little boys from my hip, or what happens
when a man does not receive his afternoon sandwich
in a timely manner, what happens to his penis after he is taken
to drink, but I will not. I cannot complain. I have a home
I can return to.

—from “To Write a Letter When There is Too Much to Say”


For you, I only write
a cluster of birds, a crushed blossom in echoes to home,
and I fear how much I long to hear them say, welcome back,
welcome back.

—from “To Write a Letter When There is Too Much to Say”


“You wouldn’t know it by simply looking,
but her head is a museum. It houses many beautiful aches.”

—from “Marilla is a Museum”


“Then you were shadow, never-played violin, empty kitchen, you flimsy
woman squeezed into the body of an elegant child.”

—from “Ruby, sucked in”

And finally:

“I do not feel sexy this week. The clock is tired, its endless wandering. Are you abhorrent? Are you worse than death? I can afford to show a little leg. I fold my dress up above my knees. I speak less these days, I told you, I can afford to show a little leg.

—from “A Bird Called Grief”

April Michelle Bratten’s latest book is the Anne of Green Gables inspired chapbook, Anne with an E (dancing girl press 2015). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Southeast Review, Zone 3, Gargoyle, decomP, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Thrush Poetry Journal, among others. She is the editor-in-chief of Up the Staircase Quarterly, and a contributing editor at Words Dance Publishing where she writes the article “Three to Read.” She currently lives in Minot, North Dakota.

Contributing Editor /

Donna-Marie Riley currently resides in the South West of England. She is author of the poetry collection Love and Other Small Wars, published by Words Dance, and also featured in Between Sentiment and Sensation: Vol I, published by Red Paint Hill. She romanticizes cold coffee and bitten nails and she likes her poetry shaken, not stirred.

Interview with Jennifer Hudgens + a Review of Girls Who Fell In Love With War

$10.95 | 86 pages | order here

SaraEve Fermin Reviews Girls Who Fell In Love With War by Jennifer Hudgens

Some books of poetry welcome you in. Some promise you hope, some are a declaration of war. Some are rolling landscapes, are promises of rebirth, are dark carnivals revealed after all the patrons have gone home. Some are a scream, a cry, a kiss or a consolation.

Girls Who Fell In Love With War is all of those and more.

Jennifer Hudgens brings her first full length anthology to life and holds nothing back. A book born in the fires of trauma, mental illness, body image and death, the Oklahoma based poet speaks with a voice that transcends pain and reminds you that yes, there is another side to the gutting. 


Thank you for teaching me charm, grace-
for showing me what it means to be so human

even when it feels similar to breaking.

—from “Wild World”

More than anything, this book is a tribute to her father, who passed from cancer in 2015. His memory is painted across the manuscript, twirling many poems into childhood memories one could pluck like jewels and hold to lips, like sweet strawberries. In “Ostriches”, Hudgens manages to tell the story of disappointment turned ritual turned coming-of-age–

Forgiveness was the Grand Canyon.

Every summer Daddy made

promises he was never able to keep,

the best salesmen anyone had met.

—from “Ostriches”

The book delves into the politics of the body, centering on eating disorders and self-harm. Hudgens is open and blunt in her poems, a refreshing read into a topic that can often be fraught with metaphors. 

The trick was to swim,

not flounder,

not tarry,

not drown.

—from “Cutter”

Hudgens demands her space. She demands to be taken seriously, demands to be seen, demands to her own self worth—something that is so hard in a time when people will do so much to take that away from a survivor. She demands not to be seen as the actions that made her, but as the person she has become. 

Stop telling me I am broken.

Stop telling me I have to ‘let things go’.

Stop telling me how to heal.

When you left- you took your fool mouth,

and left me to my bravery at dusk.

—from “Let Go”

Girls Who Fell In Love With War is available from Swimming With Elephants Publications as well as from Hudgens site, where you can get a signed copy. Pick up one today. Fall in love with your own wars. Find the courage to win.

SaraEve : If you could start this interview, what would you ask yourself?

Jennifer : Honestly? I’d ask, “Why do you do what you do?” When I ask, it means, why do you ‘do’ poetry? I’ve had people ask me that a lot. My answer: is because it is a huge part of who I am. I think and breathe poetry. I cannot function well without writing. I turn into this bitter, angry person that I don’t even recognize anymore-especially if I’ve not written enough.

SaraEve : How do you begin writing a poem?

Jennifer : Usually, the poems just hit me. I could be driving in rush hour traffic or trying to focus on homework. Hell, I could be dreaming about mermaids and zombies, then I wake up, and there’s a poem. My poems are very organic. Rarely do I just decide to write about something and it happens the way I want it to. I sit down to write, and let whatever comes-comes. Editing comes in very handy once I’ve gotten it out. I want to say my poems are magic, they find me, just when I need them, and sometimes when I wish they wouldn’t.

SaraEve : Thank you for Girls Who Fell In Love With War, it is both beautiful and tragic, glorious in the story of triumph, a Girl who is constantly becoming. You address eating disorders, depression, trauma and abuse. You talk about losing your father to cancer—I’m sorry. Can you talk about how this had an impact on your writing?

Jennifer : No need to apologize. All of these things that have tried so hard to break me, have made me who I am. As cliché as that sounds, I wouldn’t be here right now if I hadn’t found poetry as an outlet. I used to write poetry so thick with metaphor that nobody could understand it. I even go back and look at my first chapbook and have no clue what the hell I was writing about. At one point, I decided to stop hiding behind my words, and come full force with them. My life has been an uphill battle, always. Every time I get kicked, I find strength to pull myself back up. I guess it’s the stubborn Irish in me. Losing my Da less than a year ago was the hardest thing I’ve ever lived through. I’m still not sure I’ve managed to live through it. I think I’m just kind of floating along. When you lose a parent, people either try to console you by saying things like, “At least he’s in a better place,” or “At least he’s not in pain anymore.” Those people are the ones that haven’t lost someone particularly close by. I’ve had people tell me to get over it, or that it’s been long enough. I’ve lost friends who have no clue how to be around me anymore. The roughest part is, I just want my friends around. I don’t have to spend time talking about my Da, but if he comes up in conversation, I’d like it to be okay to tell stories about him. I’ve never experienced this sort of heartbreak. It’s managed to fuel some very powerful poems, one of which people love to hear, “Tiny Bones and Dust.” Every time I read it, I sob. It makes people cry, but it’s honest. Sometimes, I wish I could just write funny poems, or pop culture poems, and not write so much about pain. I had an older poet once tell me that she didn’t understand how someone could turn pain into art until she met me. I was floored by it. 

SaraEve : You are an editor at Wicked Banshee Press, and your work has been featured at several presses. Can you talk a little about your submission process, and how it has helped you amass a manuscript’s worth of poetry?

Jennifer : Editing for WBP has been a joy. I love helping new voices get exposure they deserve, solely on their merit as writer’s, publishing through presses has been great. I don’t submit as often as I should, but when I do, just like all poets, I try really hard to not have any expectations. Some people think I don’t get rejection letters. I do. Usually from places I’ve forgotten I even submitted poems to. The majority of places I’ve been accepted in have been really awesome. I know not every poem is a masterpiece, and all we can do is try, right? I’d like to make a book of blackout poetry with my rejection letters.

I write (usually) every day. I write as often as I can manage. I have specific folders for edited poems, whether for submissions or chapbooks, or some other project I want to do. I will every-so-often take around 10-15 poems, and just sit with them, editing and shaping them into something I like a bit more. I think it’s important to step away from things you’ve written, and edit later, always later. It’s too close, you’re too raw, and the poem will end up butchered because of that. Give it a week or two. Give yourself time to pull back so that when you “kill your darlings” it won’t be so difficult. Oh, and always keep multiple files with different versions of the same poem. You never know when you might want to go back to a previous version.

SaraEve : Who are the poets that you keep going to?

Jennifer : Melissa May-Dunn, Sierra DeMulder, Ai, Dominique Christina, just to name a few. I wish I could just eat all of their poems, maybe I could become a poem.

Jennifer E. Hudgens was born and raised in Oklahoma City. She has always danced to the beat of her own drummer, just ask her mom. Using poetry as a means of expression and survival, Jennifer lives poetry. She watches the sky the way most people watch television. Jennifer is terrified of clowns, horses, and animatronic toys. She is convinced that damned Snuggle bear is secretly trying to steal everyone’s souls.

Jennifer is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing at the University of Central Oklahoma with plans to teach high school students after graduation and pursue an MFA in Creative Writing. She is a pretty rad substitute teacher.

Jen genuinely hopes you like her poems. If you don’t, that’s okay too.

For more information on the author:

Contributing Editor

SaraEve Fermin is a performance poet and epilepsy advocate from New Jersey. An East Coast heart jumping circus trains, she is the editor-in-chief of Wicked Banshee Press. Nowadays can be found volunteering at National Poetry Slam Events. She is a Women of the World Poetry Slam Competitor and her work can be found in GERM Magazine, Drunk In A Midnight Choir, Free Verse Magazine and Transcendence among others. Her second book of poetry, The View From The Top of the Ferris Wheel, will be published by Emphat!c Press in 2015. She believes in the power of foxes and self publishing.

Interview with William James + a Review of rebel hearts & restless ghosts

$12 | pre-order here

SaraEve : If you could begin this interview, what would you ask yourself?

William : Why do you always wait until the last possible moment to do things, like check your email, or reply to interviews? Answer: because in my 33 years of life, I still haven’t managed to figure out proper time management.

SaraEve : You’ve titled your book Rebel Hearts and Restless Ghosts, a line that comes up in the book. From reading the notes, I understand this is an homage to one of your favorite bands, Modern Life is War. Would you like to talk a little bit more about how they have influenced your writing and the shape of this book?

William : There are two pieces to why & how MLIW came to be a huge influence on me, and they’re somewhat intertwined. I’m from a very small town in PA that has a population of less than 500. It’s a town that seems to have utterly nothing to boast about, except for perhaps its insignificance. It’s a struggle to find anything to take pride in when you live in a place that stifling; it’s even more difficult when every day it seems like people from the coasts (or just from cities hundreds of times bigger) dismiss everything you do as being valueless because it doesn’t come from a major population center. The thing about MLIW is that they’re from Marshalltown, IA…and not apologetic about it. Jeff [Eaton, lead singer] wrote lyrics that spoke to the experience of being “just a factory worker’s son from a railroad town” and the frustration of knowing that “there’s something happening somewhere, and we know we know we gotta get there” – themes that spoke to me much more deeply than some song about the hard streets of New York, or wherever. It was inspiring to hear someone speaking about experiences I shared, as though they mattered. When I started writing the poems that eventually would become the book, I knew that I wanted to write my own experiences without fear or apology, to represent where I came from rather than where I thought I wanted to be.

SaraEve : For the past two years now you have been aiming to submit 100 poems for publication, regardless of your acceptance rate. This is an admirable feat and your commitment to the craft is something that should be celebrated (high fives to you!) How has this practice helped to push your writing?

William : It’s become a part of my editing process. If I ever think a poem is done, or rather that I can take it easy and not put the work into a poem 100%, there’s nothing like getting told a dozen or more times that the poem isn’t good enough yet to make me go back to the notebook and keep working. Of course, the inverse of that also applies – I tend to sit on a poem forever, telling myself that it isn’t good enough to show anyone yet. Having the goal of 100 rejections has kind of forced my hand, and made me be more vulnerable with sending out work that I might otherwise have hidden under a bushel forever because I didn’t believe it was as perfect as it should be.

I guess it keeps me always striving for the balance between accepting the inherent imperfections of being a human artist, while also never settling for any less than the best I am able to do at the time.

SaraEve : Thank you so much for your dedication to suicide prevention and mental health. It is a serious topic that needs to be addressed and I find that more and more poets are speaking out about their experiences with mental health. Can you talk about how you start a poem when dealing with some of these darker issues?

William : I’m not really sure there’s a conscious process in that. Most of the poems I have that speak on my struggles with mental health and suicidal ideation never really start out as poems, at least not in the sense that they’re meant to be shared with an audience or a reader. I have a poem in the book titled “Letter To Myself Following A Second Failed Suicide Attempt” that is just that; a conversation with myself, trying to work through the things I need to allow myself to believe. Eventually, I come to realize that I might be saying something that a younger version of myself would have needed to hear, and that if I needed those words then maybe someone else does too…so I start crafting them into a more purposeful poem.

SaraEve : Who are the poets that you keep going back to?

William : Ryler Dustin’s Heavy Lead Bird Song was the first book of poetry I ever bought, and I’ve often gone back to that one. Philip Levine is someone I discovered late, but his work definitely strikes a fire in me. Of course, I continue to draw water from the well of punk rock & hardcore – Jeff from MLIW, Aaron Bedard from Bane, Pat Flynn from Have Heart/Sweet Jesus/Free, Sean Murphy from Verse, George Hirsch from Blacklisted, etc. A lot of these guys, I read their lyrics the same way one might read a collection of poems.

That all being said, the people who most excite me are the people getting up to read their first poem ever on the open mic, the people who don’t know “how” they’re supposed to be poets so they just write, recklessly, fearlessly, without any preconceptions about proper form, structure, line breaks…all the stuff that we all tend to get caught up in the further down this rabbit hole we go. The kid who’s reading a poem at the open mic because they literally can’t help but share their art with anyone who is willing to pay attention – that’s who I truly believe is the future of poetry, and who I keep looking to for reminders of why I want to do this in the first place.

Poem from rebel hearts & restless ghosts:

Letter To Myself Following A Second Failed Suicide Attempt

Hey kid, what the fuck were you thinking? Did you honestly believe
the lie that was fed you that life will never get any better than this?

Did no one ever tell you that you shouldn’t listen to ghosts? What
could something dead possibly have to teach you about the fine art

of staying alive? You’ve put too much belief in whispers, given
credit to the chains they drag over your body. When you try to count

enough reasons to want to wake up tomorrow, do you not realize
the scraping sounds in your chest are merely the cheapest product

of the oldest crime? There is a reason those eyes, candle burning in
your haunted sky are glowing green. You still suck breath between

gritted teeth in spite of the ghouls’ most dedicated efforts. I know
right now your wrists are spitting crimson. I know right now,

you are trying to dry-swallow one more pill. Believe me when
I say even at your most embarrassingly awkward rock bottom,

you are still a fucking thunderstorm tucked beneath your breastplate.
The hypnotic rhythm of pulse in your temple represents

one thing all the wraiths hovering above your bedside cannot have.
Too cowardly to bloody their hands trying to remove it by force,

they instead resort to a weaker form of warfare. This black hole
you are so desperate to drown in is nothing more than a chemical

siege they have laid on your mind. Remember this: you are
not bottle rocket, but pipebomb. Not train derailment,
but slow-burning fuse. You are not knife wound. Not sword-
swallower, not fallout. You are sky. When tomorrow spills

from your poison gut like shards of broken crystal, do not bother
picking up the pieces. It is not you who has shattered, only the glass.

Click here to read “Reclamation” from rebel hearts & restless ghosts.

Review of rebel hearts & restless ghosts by SaraEve Fermin

May our songs carry voices over lifetimes.

May our screams pull God from the sky.

—from “Liturgy for the Underground”

William James isn’t saying he is the Punk Rock Poet Preacher we need. All he is asking is that we honor the voices that carved us into our truest selves, the grief and joy and fear and hope and kaleidoscope of experiences that make life worth sticking around for.

When I was 22, bad chemicals in my head

caused me to believe death had forgotten I existed,

and would perhaps need my helping hand.

—from “Greet Death”

This is depression, stripped down to its bare bones. As a person who lives with major depressive disorder, this statement cried out to my bones. James does a brilliant job of describing the stark aloneness of depression, but also hope. The hope of survival, of making it through, of knowing it might not exactly get better, but maybe different.

…Call me

restless. Wanderlust. Call me getting the hell out,

call me escape. City life. Streetlights, lock your doors,

call me restart. Call me not dying in your

hometown, call me 600 miles away from high school.

Call me success story. Call me happiness is

a new life in a new world. Call me living free

instead of dying. Call me home-

sick. Call me home.

—from “Reclamation”

The book is divided into eight sections, each section marked by a Modern Life Is War lyric. The hardcore punk rock life shows up several times in the book, both as memories of days past and thoughts on being the “old fuck” at the show. A contributing editor at Drunk in a Midnight Choir, James has written several pieces on how music has influenced his poetry, as seen here-

The microphone becomes

a cube of sugar dropped on an anthill – enveloped by voices 

eager for their chance to share in the sorcery of the night.

—from “Homesong”

This book also contains a kick ass not generic poem about pomegranates, a love poem that breaks ribs, a persona poem about the Golden Gate Bridge and poems with supplemental link. It is 80 pages of beauty and sincerity, of New England determination and a commitment to suicide prevention. A Timber Mouse book, you can preorder rebel hearts & restless ghosts at

Photo courtesy of Lauren Elma Frament

William James is a poet, punk rocker, and train enthusiast from Manchester, NH. A contributing editor at Drunk In A Midnight Choir, and a Pushcart Prize & Best of the Net nominee, his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in various journals including Word Riot, SOFTBLOW, Radius Lit, Atticus Review, and the Emerson Review, as well as the anthologies “Again I Wait For This To Pull Apart” (Freeze Ray Press, 2015) and Best Indie Lit New England: Vol. 2 (Black Key Press, 2015). His debut full-length poetry collection “rebel hearts & restless ghosts” is forthcoming in 2015 from Timber Mouse Publishing.

Contributing Editor

SaraEve Fermin is a performance poet and epilepsy advocate from New Jersey. An East Coast heart jumping circus trains, she is the editor-in-chief of Wicked Banshee Press. Nowadays can be found volunteering at National Poetry Slam Events. She is a Women of the World Poetry Slam Competitor and her work can be found in GERM Magazine, Drunk In A Midnight Choir, Free Verse Magazine and Transcendence among others. Her second book of poetry, The View From The Top of the Ferris Wheel, will be published by Emphat!c Press in 2015. She believes in the power of foxes and self publishing.

Sway This Way: The Pulp vs. the Throne by Carrie Lorig | Review

Review by Alexis Smithers

The Pulp vs. the Throne by Carrie Lorig left me confused, bewildered, and magicked.

It’s something I never would’ve picked out on my own and I’m glad, poet and Actual Cloud (the first edition has sold out but you can keep an eye out for it here), Dalton Day gently pushed me into her path with this tweet:

I was hooked in with monotonous and incredible in the same sentence. That seems impossible yet full of truth and that is exactly what this book is.

Divided into four or nine parts depending how you look at it, each section is sliding you towards the edge of a cliff. The first three parts you’re wondering why you’re on a cliff, by part four you’ve accepted your fate, and the last part of the book you’re evaluating, enjoying, exciting the fall. It’s a trip and a half to be honest.

There are some books that every word fills you with complete and total clarity.

This is not one of those books.

Here, you have to scavenger for understanding. Take to the page with pen and open heart, digging up and through and around and below each letter, slash, space, picture and pause until you glean something that you can hold up to the light and decide to keep.

It’s like when you go for a walk by yourself as a kid, or before the world breaks something important in you, and you’re still amazed at everything you see. You’re living capital letter exclamation point.


That tree was yellow but noW IT’S ORANGE!!!!!


and you pick up little rocks and sticks and leaves and bottle caps and scraps of paper along the way because the important in you says you need to. And then, you bring all of those home and sit on the bedroom floor with a huge smile smacked on your face as you take all these treasure clues you’ve found and put together a story a secret the world needs you to tell, to know.

You don’t hide it when it’s time to go to bed because there’s nothing to hide.

But when you wake up in the morning, you find your mom has thrown your work play away because you’re “not supposed to bring the outside in with you.”

This book is digging through the plastic bag in the garage to find the unknown necessary she’s tossed. This book is learning that you didn’t bring the outside in with you, you’re learning to bring the inside of you out.

A lot of it doesn’t make sense if you’re looking for a clear cut answer. I can’t tell you what this book is about because it holds so much. Right now, it’s about living within contradictions, turning back to read the notes your feet leave, repetition that uses different words but comes to similar meaning, and embracing the un-doneness of what clings to your heart like familiar alien pulse. Who knows what it will be when I finish writing this.

You’ve got to go into this book with a lot of trust. But that’s okay. It’s good practice for everything else.

You can follow Carrie and bewilder yourself at her Twitter and Tumblr and buy The Pulp vs. the Throne here.

Contributing Editor

Alexis Smithers is a twenty one year old explosion of messes. They are queer black writer that was published in a book about how horses heal (Wild at Heart by Heather Kirby), and has work that can be found on theEEEL. Fun facts: they tied a pillowcase to their back and tried to fly after seeing Sky High, their mantra can be found in Wreck-It Ralph, The Babadook, or Orphan Black (depending on the day) and they’re terrified of mostly everything but art makes the fear easier to hold.

Sway This Way: Idiot Verse by Keaton Henson |Review

Review by Jade Mitchell

An acclaimed musician, writer, and visual artist, Keaton Henson has already painted a picture of love, heart-break and pain with his numerous albums and collections of artwork. But now, he can add the title of poet under his belt. Idiot Verse details the moments and mishaps of Keaton’s life over a three-year period, and captures them at their rawest and honest emotion.

Within his poetry, there is a sense of isolation, in the longing to be in another’s company. Within poems such as “Grow Up With Me” and “Polite Plea”, there is a gentle coaxing within Keaton’s voice, the kind of plea which is inviting, even if it is as simple as to exist with someone.

“I will make art, not for, but about you

speak truths while you’re sleep and wake you with hands

we will dive deeply into one another

and stay out of our own weary heads”

But within this isolation, there is also the temptation to hide. To conceal your emotions away and lock them forever within yourself. “Hiding It” faces this idea of being overwhelmed with feeling that you can barely hold yourself together, so you keep yourself hidden.

“I vow to stow it all away

and keep the world from you

if I can’t handle all of it

how could you feel it to?

So I’ll smoke a cigarette and think

of everything you are

how can I feed and dress myself

when thinking of the stars?”

Within Idiot Verse, there is also the contrast between love and heart-break, and Keaton knows this all too well. The poem “The One” is simple in its poetry. There is something quite bitter-sweet within its language, within filling yourself with so much care and love for someone so much you’d sacrifice your life for them.

“you are my angel

I’ll keep you from harm

talk to me sweetly

break both my arms

My Aphrodite

you’re every breath

sing me a lullaby

love me to death”

But what happens when this love stops, when it’s over-shadowed by fear that you can’t help but tell yourself to leave? “Too Soon” details the leaving of someone too quickly. This poem is full of longing and regret, but the love still exists there, trembling.

“I know

I left you far too soon my love

but knew from every laugh

that I was never going to be

able to be enough

I know I gave up far too soon

and left in a loathsome way

but please understand I’m not quite a man

but perhaps will be someday”

But sadly, this review is not enough to display the intensity of Keaton’s work within this collection. Idiot Verse carries the reflections of being a creator, of the hardships of writing, of being isolated and finding solace within poetry. Within the last poem “To”, Keaton ends the collection with a bitter-sweet poem, highlighting the harmony and balance we will one day find in our lives.

“to plant flowers

and leave, never to see them grow

to pretend to pretend you’re important

but secretly feel that you are”

Connect with Keaton:
Website | Facebook | Tumblr | Store

Keaton Henson is a musician, writer and visual artist from the suburbs of London, England. He has released three critically-acclaimed albums: Dear, Birthdays and Romantic Works as well as scoring for ballet and film. Keaton has also shown his art in exhibitions around the world and published a book called Gloaming. He is currently working on his fourth album alongside new exhibitions and books.

Contributing Editor

Jade Mitchell is an 18 year old poet / writer who resides near Glasgow, Scotland. Her work has been featured in The Grind Journal, Inky Paper and Ink Scotland. Aside from working on her writing and poetry, you can find her listening to Lorde and reading every poem she can find in sight.

Sway This Way: Keen by Lauren Gordon | Review

Keen by Lauren Gordon
34pp / $8 / order from Horse Less Press / review by April Michelle Bratten

My mother brought home a large stack of Nancy Drew books from a garage sale when I was about ten years old. From that moment on until around high-school age (okay, maybe a little through high school age, too, I must admit) Nancy Drew was a hero of mine. I admired her intelligence, independence, and fearlessness. As an adult, the series still intrigues me, but I can also see its faults. In many ways, the character of Nancy is depicted as “too perfect.” What could lie beneath the calm and always perfectly put-together Nancy Drew? Lauren Gordon’s Keen digs into the fictionalized underbelly of a fictional character in a clever and unique way.

The poems in Keen (a multi-sided play on the pen name Carolyn Keene, used by a number of authors to ghostwrite the Nancy Drew series) are short and intelligent, fluidly linked to fittingly imitate a mystery novel. Many of the poems leave behind “clues” and foreshadow what ultimately becomes Nancy’s big revelation. In Keen, mystery solving becomes a metaphor, and like any good mystery novel, Keen drives the reader to start sleuthing along with the main character. In this case, however, we are treated with the compelling poems Gordon has written:

          Nancy got down on her hands and knees,
          took her flashlight from a pocket,
          and beamed it.

          Try to pull one up. It will stick tightly
          to the floor.

          Try to cement it together. You will be marooned
          on this side of the moat.

          Ned, she will say,
          beam around my feet, my area –

          Have you seen the missing couple?

                                            –from “Chapter 7”

Gordon uses genre words and imagery to immerse the poems into a mystery-like atmosphere: trap door, turret, proof, vanished, magnifying glass, revolving bookcases, narrow escapes, etc. Possibly the most fascinating image used in Keen, however, is that of a robot. Gordon uses the imagery of a robot in several of the first section’s poems. One example is seen in “Chapter 18”:

          Tell Nancy to take a good long

          Gasp upon realizing a piece of railing
          and newel are part of the hallway
          that leads to your robot.

After my first reading of Keen, I became intrigued with the robot as a metaphor and asked Gordon if she could give away any secrets about its origin. She pointed me in the direction of an interview she did with Rattle and Pen. She explained:

    The first section of the chapbook happened years later in a blur – I reread one of the Nancy Drew books (The Crooked Banister, which came out in 1971 and was #48 in the series) and was just kind of floored by this one illustration of Nancy being held by a robot. The look on Nancy’s face is supposed to be terror, but instead she looks surprised, and the robot looks sad. It’s as if she’s being hugged against her will. I projected myself into the picture unconsciously and that is when the writing started.

As Keen progresses, readers will begin to realize that the Nancy Drew character is subconsciously coping with the absence of her mother. In the original Nancy Drew series, Drew’s mother died when she was young, and she was then raised by her single father and the family’s maid. The metaphor of the robot begins to encapsulate a possible array of emotions and ideas, namely frustration, confusion, and loss. The robot could be the grip of a lost memory sneaking up on Nancy in a quiet moment, or the strangulating feeling of unvoiced and unexplored emotions. Gordon ultimately leaves this metaphor up to her readers to decide. What, she seems to be asking, is your robot?

This complex collection also touches on the issues of sexism and racism depicted in the original Nancy Drew series, particularly Nancy’s reactions to people of color. Keen criticizes how issues of race were dealt with in the original books, which were written in the 1930s and 40s. I admired that Gordon decided to confront these issues with the Nancy Drew series, holding them up to the light, instead of shying away from them. Gordon shared her thoughts on this concept in the Rattle and Pen interview as well:

    I still have affection for the characters, but it’s impossible to not read them now without grimacing at the overt racism and sexism. As historical artifacts, they’re immensely interesting and simultaneously gross. I can’t separate them from the space and place they come from, so they have lost a little bit of the sparkle.

Gordon seems to be speaking to Nancy directly on these specific issues in “Chapter 15” when she writes, “Miss Nancy, it was impossible to make you hear us / over the sound of your own echo.”

Who was Nancy Drew, really? Keen is an impressive chapbook, woven with complex ideas and stunning poetry that share Gordon’s version of Nancy Drew, a version that I was enthusiastically drawn toward and happy to discover more about. Gordon’s Nancy Drew has more depth and substance underneath her tough exterior. Gordon’s Nancy Drew tells herself, “you have to press things inside of yourself / until they are violet”. Keen is written in a fresh and innovative style, lending the book connectivity of thought, and building up to a complete story. I thoroughly enjoyed solving the mystery.

Lauren Gordon is the author of four chapbooks; “Meaningful Fingers” (Finishing Line Press), “Keen” (Horse Less Press), “Fiddle Is Flood” (Blood Pudding Press), and “Generalizations about Spines” (Yellow Flag Press). She is also a Contributing Editor to Radius Lit.

Contributing Editor

April Michelle Bratten lives in Minot, North Dakota. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Gargoyle, THRUSH Poetry Journal, Southeast Review, Stirring, decomP, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Zone 3, and others. Her Anne of Green Gables inspired chapbook, Anne with an E, is due to be published in the fall of 2015 by dancing girl press. She is the editor of Up the Staircase Quarterly.

Sway This Way: We Were Young by Fortesa Latifi | Review

We Were Young by Fortesa Latifi | Where Are You Press, 2015
Review by Meggie Royer

Latifi has built a dreamscape of girls in bars, girls in skirts, girls falling asleep next to missing lovers, all among the everyday rubble of cereal for breakfast and pills, lipstick smears, shaking hands. Interspersed with tales of grandparents and sleepovers, Latifi draws the magic from lives full of ache and want, reminding us of those rare moments we felt beautiful, even for just a few seconds.

The most stunning thing about these works is how reckless they are. “We are young and we don’t know yet/how damage can last,” writes Latifi. These poems will last, too. We will always remember the boys smoking on balconies, the boy with the baguette, the grandmother crying at the kitchen table while slicing fruit. It’s what’s in the details that saves us.

Ripe, dizzying, and astoundingly insightful, We Were Young is a momentous collection that will bring the old back to the young and the young back to themselves. “Since your first taste, you never wanted to do without it,” says Latifi in “Albatross.” The same goes for this stunning collection.

Connect with Fortesa:
Tumblr | Instagram | Twitter

Fortesa Latifi is a 22-year old poet/writer/bibliophile. She is trying her best. Her book This Is How We Find Each Other was published through Where Are You Press in December 2014. Her work has also been published in Persona and Words Dance. She couldn’t stop writing if she tried. For bookings/interview requests, you can contact her at

Contributing Editor

Meggie Royer is a writer and photographer from the Midwest who is currently majoring in Psychology at Macalester College. Her poems have previously appeared in Words Dance Magazine, The Harpoon Review, Melancholy Hyperbole, and more. She has won national medals for her poetry and a writing portfolio in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and was the Macalester Honorable Mention recipient of the 2015 Academy of American Poets Student Poetry Prize.

Sway This Way: Homing by Katie Ailes |Review

Review by Jade Mitchell

Katie Ailes’ Homing is a transition between the borders of the homes we create for ourselves – whether they be stemmed from childhood or ones we find along the way as our lives begin to take shape.

“and I wondered in the screaming ambulance

how we were so fleshy, so breakable,

whether we really were once made of light

and had bruised ourselves into bodies.”

At first, she focuses on her childhood roots of America. Poems such as ‘Watermelons’ and ‘Farm Hand’ are vivid, her imagery painting across the pages as her childhood comes to life through her background scenery of Pennsylvania, and her summers spent there.

“Cricket-loud nights ignored

windowpanes, let themselves in

while fireflies winked the yard bright.”

Katie also paints poignancy within the poem “Lightning”. This personal piece highlights Katie’s relationship with the man who raised her, with snapshots of the memories they have shared together, highlighting the bond shared between father and daughter, and how it grows through the years.

“When he first told me

I was not his daughter,

he held me together

with soft words:

I have always believed in nurture

over nature, love.

You are mine, in that.”

Katie then transitions from America to the United Kingdom. From England, she pens “Christmas Day, Regent’s Park” in which she captures a sense of homesickness and isolation. We see the stark contrast between the greying, bland Christmas morning experienced in London, and the Christmas morning that Katie envisions for a loved one back home in Maine.

“Hear his exhales, feel my tiny lungs

match his. We make a rhythm of small clouds.

The rain begins.”

From Scotland, the political roots that had taken ahold of the country in 2014 are clearly evident. She captures the electricity of the evening of the Independence Referendum, this new-found feeling of excitement and hope as the night grows on in anticipation of the result.

“Young Americans in an old land,

we were heady with democracy,

claimed to feel ancient rebellions

rising in our blood: a kindred fighting

freedom. We were giddy with history

and blind with future.”

Within the final poem within the collection Homing, reality blurs with memory. Katie reminiscences her summer days in Jersey with her family, the nostalgia rising through each stanza like a tidal wave. Highlighting the significance place her home holds within her heart, this poem highlights that no matter how far away you are from home, it will always exists within your soul.

“And sometime in the blur

I wake: and my hands are white and suds

and my fingers are pruning in the 

hot soapy clean:

and I am home.

And I am home.”

Connect with Katie:
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

Katie Ailes is a poet and researcher currently conducting her PhD at the University of Strathclyde. Her research focuses on the expression of marginalised voices through contemporary spoken word poetry in the UK. Ailes has performed her poetry across the UK with the collective Loud Poets, and placed second in the 2015 Scottish National Poetry Slam. Her first collection, Homing, was published in August.

Contributing Editor

Jade Mitchell is an 18 year old poet / writer who resides near Glasgow, Scotland. Her work has been featured in The Grind Journal, Inky Paper and Ink Scotland. Aside from working on her writing and poetry, you can find her listening to Lorde and reading every poem she can find in sight.

To-Read Poetry Books

I often find myself wishing I utilised the site Goodreads more than I do. A site where you are free to keep track of what you’ve read, are reading, and want to read, I feel I ought to give it more of my time. The only problem is that I have an incredibly short attention span and a memory like a sieve, which means I forget to take advantage of it. And which in turn means that so often, I will read a few poems of a poet and make a mental note to buy and read whatever collections they might have available, but nearly as soon as I’ve made the mental note, my mind gobbles it up until the next time I stumble across some of their work again. Also, even when I remember to buy the book, I still often neglect to read it. When I’m intending to read a poetry book, I like to have a need for it, an urgency that makes me the reading sweeter. The urgency isn’t always there though and so even books I am floored to have looking out at me from the bookshelf can sit there for months, unread. This is a list of the books I need to make the time for, a reminder to myself, yes, but also a list for you, of books to invite into your own library. Without further ado:

1. War of the Foxes – Richard Siken

Siken’s first collection Crush is the only one that has had such a dramatic effect on me in recent years. When I was younger and easily-impressed, it was more often that a poet would rein me in. Nowadays, it’s infrequent, and when it does happen, when a book guts me like an animal, that’s it, I’m won forever. So naturally, when Siken’s long-anticipated second collection was announced, I was psyched beyond belief. I was ready to feed myself whole to the teeth I knew it’d have. I even got myself a signed copy. And then I got scared. Because what if War of the Foxes is not on par with Crush for me? What if it can’t be because Crush is now too high of a standard. I’ve skimmed through its pages briefly, and I already know it won’t have the same power over me as Crush, but nonetheless, I know it’s still a worthy read. And it’s first on my list to take the time out to grapple with.

2. Said the Manic to the Muse – Jeanann Verlee

Here’s the thing with Said the Manic to the Muse, I had this book on pre-order from Amazon the moment it was available, and yet, after waiting weeks to be told, “your order is on its way,” instead I was told they were out of stock. I have not been able to get my hands on it. If anyone knows of some secret place I can get hold of a copy, do let me know. But I mean, come on, it’s Jeanann Verlee! Did they not know to print all the copies they could?! I’d buy all the spares if necessary. Verlee is one of the few spoken word poets for me whose work reads as well on the page as it sounds when performed. I know this from reading her earlier collection Racing Hummingbirds, which incidentally, though I’ve read it, I do not own, so that’s two from Jeanann Verlee that I need to make space for in my little library.

3. Wine for a Shotgun – Marty McConnell

I know little about Marty McConnell and have read little of her work beyond the pieces that show up occasionally on my Tumblr dashboard. But damn, when they show up, I am always left winded. And always left pressing the ‘add to wishlist’ button on my Amazon account. I’ll be getting Wine for a Shotgun as soon as I can and I’m so excited to get to know and come to appreciate a new poet.

4. Facts about the Moon – Dorianne Laux

I was introduced to Dorianne Laux via the poem “Facts About the Moon”. I read it once and that was it – it’s one of my all-time favourite poems. And look, I love poetry, but there are only a handful or two of poems I fall in love with as quickly and unsuspectingly as I did with “Facts About the Moon”. The collection, named after its title poem, is another I’ve had sat on my shelf for some time, but haven’t yet gotten around to giving my full attention. Soon to be remedied!

5. Faithful and Virtuous Night – Louise Glück

Louise Glück is another one of those poets I keep getting blindsided by on Tumblr. I’m scrolling through my dashboard, half shut off, and then one of her poems comes up and I start screaming internally, “HER, READ HER. REMEMBER THAT NAME.” It doesn’t work because as I’ve already mentioned, I’ve a memory like a sieve, but now that I’ve got this list, and have her on it, I’ll be bringing Faithful and Virtuous Night Home soon.

6. [insert] boy + Black Movie – Danez Smith

After his poems “Dinosaurs in the Hood”, “Dear White America”, and “Alternate Names for Black Boys”, I’m going to get my hands on anything Danez Smith ever releases, and I’m going to eat it like the holy bread that it is.

Links: [insert] boy + Black Movie

Contributing Editor /

Donna-Marie Riley currently resides in the South West of England. She is author of the poetry collection Love and Other Small Wars, published by Words Dance, and also featured in Between Sentiment and Sensation: Vol I, published by Red Paint Hill. She romanticizes cold coffee and bitten nails and she likes her poetry shaken, not stirred.

Interview with Megan Falley + a Review of Bad Girls, Honey: Poems About Lana Del Rey

Megan Falley just keeps on bringing the sparkle. This time it is with a chapbook release by Tired Heart Press, BAD GIRLS, HONEY (Poems About Lana Del Rey)! Falley uses her muse, Lana Del Rey, to explore life, love, sexuality, womanhood and more through a series of conversations and monologues. Read more about Falley’s process in this interview!

SaraEve : If you could begin this interview, what question would you ask (and answer) yourself?

Megan : I would begin the interview asking who and how I loved, since I think that is the most important thing to know about a person right now. 

And I would respond by asking what that had to do with the book, and move on.

SaraEve : How do you begin writing a poem?

Megan : Often it begins with a line, an image, a tiny scrap from my day. Lately I like writing poems in the notes section of my phone rather than on a laptop or paper, because it seems so low stakes, like I am texting or something, and that takes the pressure for it to be “good” off of me, which frees something up. I’ve been on a ton of airplanes lately and some of my best poems have been written in the clouds. There’s something of comfort to me knowing that I am in a flying death trap and could plummet at any minute and still I choose to spend my possible last moments writing something down.

SaraEve : Thank you so much for BAD GIRLS, HONEY! What a fun and exploratory read! You take on so many important issues—feminism, abusive relationships, gender binaries and others—and explore them through a complicated and beautiful poetic relationship with Lana Del Rey. What was it about Lana and/or her music that first called out to you in a pivotal way? Is there a specific poem in the book that highlights this moment?

Megan : Angel Nafis was reading a new poem in her living room in which Kanye West gives her advice—I believe—on the eve of her high school graduation. I have always admired how Angel engages with persona (thinking of the Celie from The Color Purple poems specifically) and how these poems never seemed contrived. I asked about her process with this and she said something like, “You have to ask who your patron saint is, and write from there.” I went home that night and wrote my first Lana poem. 

I really like the idea of bad advice. Of complicated relationships. Of the nuances and aches in female friendship, especially when queerness and the body is involved. I felt all of that with Lana Del Rey. I don’t always agree with her in interviews or in her lyrics, but I have an undying fascination with her as well. It seemed like an organic muse for me. It’s boring to write from the perspective of or imagine conversations and scenarios with someone you completely agree with. I dig the idea that we could really affect each other, for better or for worse. 

Growing up, whenever I would pass the exit for Coney Island with my father, he would pull over and we would ride the Cyclone. When Lana came onto the scene as the self-proclaimed “Queen of Coney Island”, I felt a nostalgia for her even though she was brand new. Interacting with her image in my work seemed impossible not to try.

SaraEve : I love “Elizabeth Grant Takes Me to an Alcoholic Anonymous Meeting”. There is so much power in taking away an icon’s stage name—Madonna and Prince automatically come to mind—and you do it with this haunting piece. There is a similar caustic wisdom found in Undressing Lana. If you could pick a stage name, what would it be?

Megan : I try to be my most authentic self in my writing, which is why I have never had, nor ever wanted, a stage name.

SaraEve : Who are the writers that you return to over and over?

Megan : Sharon Olds. Jonathan Safran Foer. Conor Oberst.

Click here to read four poems from BAD GIRLS, HONEY @ [PANK]

Review of Bad Girls, Honey by SaraEve Fermin

I’m a haunted house people line up for. There’s nothing as beautiful as a prom queen
 in a fiery crash — sequins winking in the flames.

—from “Lana Del Rey Sells Me on Sadness”

So begins Megan Falley’s newest chapbook, Bad Girls, Honey, a collection of poems centered around her personal muse, music artist Lana Del Rey. The book explores a range of emotions from sadness to apathy to love, as well as experiences, such as womanhood, coming of age, sexuality and the patriarchy. These exquisitely crafted poems are a series of conversations with or directed towards the self-proclaimed ‘Queen of Coney Island’, a woman in love with the alluring beauty of fatalism, as shown in the above excerpt, a recurring theme.

In “Lana Del Rey Helps Me Decide What My Pussy Taste Like”, Falley engages in conversation with Del Rey, one that starts lighthearted with images of bright pink and cherry cola, then delves into deeper issues that plague womanhood, inherit misogyny and the world’s need to take what is not theirs:

It is a rite of passage, for us girls—to name

our salted daughters. To taste our cake

and christen it too. To find out what it answers to

when called for in the dark.

—from “Lana Del Rey Helps Me Decide What My Pussy Taste Like”

There are lots of shining summer moments in this book, but it was “Lana Del Rey Explains to Me Why She Makes Music” that made me well up. Falley taps into the part of me that wants to be a better poet. The part of me that often needs permission to be the writer I am. The part of me that writes unapologetic, broke open for this:

Why the ballerina in the music box 

doesn’t run out.

The wave wants to crash to this song.

The fruit wants to rot to this song.

I am a self-admitted fan of everything Megan Falley. And Lana Del Rey. And Persona Poems. Still, don’t be fooled, these are so much more than persona— a conversation with the self, a way to use a love of music (or in this case, a muse) as a mirror. It is a reflection on society, on what Lana is saying about us. These poems have weight, are neatly arranged (Falley has impeccable line break usage), and are flashing a little pout. Waiting for you to come in for a kiss.

Bad Girls, Honey: Poems About Lana Del Rey is available from Tired Heart Press. Find it here!

Photo by Bridget Badore

Megan Falley is the author of two full-length collections of poetry on Write Bloody Publishing. She has toured nationwide with her books After the Witch Hunt (2012) and Redhead and the Slaughter King (2014) and is the winner of the Tired Hearts Press Contest with her chapbook Bad Girls, Honey [Poems About Lana Del Rey]. She is a Women of the World and National Poetry Slam finalist, winner of the 2015 Rustbelt Regional Poetry Slam and has been featured on TV One’s Verses & Flow. Her work has been published in Rattle, PANK, Pen Center USA’s The Rattling Wall among other literary journals. She is the creator of the online writing course, Poems That Don’t Suck, and is currently touring with poet Olivia Gatwood as part of their show, Speak Like A Girl. When she is not writing and touring the country, she is singing dirty songs sweetly on her ukulele.

Connect with Megan:

Website | Facebook | Tumblr | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

Connect with Speak Like A Girl:

Website | Facebook | Tumblr | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

Contributing Editor

SaraEve Fermin is a performance poet and epilepsy advocate from New Jersey. An East Coast heart jumping circus trains, she is the editor-in-chief of Wicked Banshee Press. Nowadays can be found volunteering at National Poetry Slam Events. She is a Women of the World Poetry Slam Competitor and her work can be found in GERM Magazine, Drunk In A Midnight Choir, Free Verse Magazine and Transcendence among others. Her second book of poetry, The View From The Top of the Ferris Wheel, will be published by Emphat!c Press in 2015. She believes in the power of foxes and self publishing.