Category Archives: Sway This Way

Sway This Way: Bone Tongue by Scherezade Siobhan| Review


52 pgs, published by Thought Catalog Books, Kindle, $4.99
Order from Amazon
Review by Jade Mitchell


Scherezade Siobhan’s Bone Tongue is an evolution, to say the least.

Bone Tongue glimpses at the aspects of life that break you down, leading to the stripping away of those parts of you and re-moulding them into something new.

What stands out for me is the rawness of Scherezade’s poetry. The collection itself is a diary, each poem detailing the thoughts and emotions focused within that day. The first day is titled: SPEAK YOUR SPINE, a bold title for a bold poem that tells you to push yourself past human boundary.

“be sin and scandal.
be the lipstick stain on a smoking gun.
be the garter under the habit of a nun.
be more blatant than the african sun.”

In these days, Scherezade presents us with poems that flicker onto the past, pushing yourself into that darkness to become one with it, to learn how to grow beyond it. A PHOENIX TOO FREQUENT focuses on this confrontation, the acceptance of what you once went through in order to continue moving forward.


“forgiving your past is the sound of a light
bulb being switched off in the distance.
the brief reluctance of a snap in the electricity
as it unchains a legion of horses
cornered between fingertips.”


But what compels me towards Scherezade Siobhan’s work is the message conceived within her imagery. It is delicate, raw, and unique in it’s own way. Scherezade conveys emotion so strongly. A HEART IS A KNIFE IN DISGUISE captures the transition of feeling, with tender love turning to a hostile anger towards the one you love.

“tell me how are we not christened cannibals yet?
aren’t we feeding off of each other’s disease :

bait-heft drag of inflated traumas, nutshell
rudiments of forgetting; we make our bodies
into shared purgatories.”

But beyond these emotions of love and anger, one triumphs all. The last poem within the collection: BE DONE, notes the compliance towards being second-best, over-looked, and battling those darker sides of yourself. BE DONE exerts this frustration, this repetition of what breaks you down before finally, you’re rid of it. And you begin again.

“Be done.
with learning to live like a shoplifting shoot-out.
with learning to walk enfeebled by the polio of doubt.
with putting a silencer on your tongue
every time you wanted to shout.”

This review is not enough to capture the intensity and beauty of this collection, but I hope this brief glimpse of it urges you to seek this treasure out for yourself.


Scherezade Siobhan is a psychologist, writer and the maker of world’s finest Spanish omelettes. Her work has been published/is forthcoming in tNY.Press, Bluestem Magazine, Black & BLUE Writing, Cordite Poetry Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Electric Cereal, Mandala, Fruita Pulp & others. She owns and runs a small independent publishing outfit called Cyberhex Press & her first poetry collection Bone Tongue was published by Thought Catalog Books in 2015. She can be found squeeing about small furry animals, football (the proper kind) & neuroscience on Tumblr @ viperslang or on Twitter @zaharaesque


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: Rolling Holy in the Dirt by Misha Brandon Speck | Review


62 pgs, perfect bound soft cover, handmade, $7
Order from Stray Arrow Press
Review by Jade Mitchell


Rolling Holy in the Dirt is an poetic execution of emotion and memory. This exploration of loss Misha Brandon Speck has created sinks you into the aftermath of losing someone and how you can continue to live through the emptiness and isolation.

Divided into three sections, Misha explores the emptiness we feel through the traces of a person that still linger once they have been removed from our lives. Poems such as “The Ghost” create a delicate imagery, immersing you within the memory until you feel at one with it.

“traces of you
on the porch
on the windowsill

evicted from mouths,
secondhand smoke in our clothes.”

However, as the chapbook rolls into its second section, the poems become a progression of trying to move on from this state of being. In poems such as “Guilt Trash”, Misha focuses on the feelings of guilt we encounter when trying to rid ourselves of the past, and settles onto the ways we can move on without leaving it behind.


”Why have we been wasting the first decades
of the 21st century staring up at the stars for
new worlds
when we could pioneer a new life


on top of the mess
we left from the last one?”


But what is also captured innocently within the second section is the progression in learning to love again, whether it be for another person or for the life you lead. Misha shows a realisation for change which is something that exists deep within us all, the moment when you become so tired that you push yourself towards something new.

“Sometimes when you remember what
you are it makes you want revolution

or at least something to that effect.”

As the book progresses into its final section, we are greeted with poems that flower. This section focuses on the new-found connections that blossom, and the passage of time from one year to the next, that evolves our very lives.

“I hope none of it is true, what
they say about the distance. I hope none of it’s
true, what they say. I can’t hear it over the sound
of standing in a city other than my own trying to
stretch love over these lines in the road.”

Rolling Holy in The Dirt is a collection gritted with reflection, full of mournful yearning before transitioning into hope, into light.

“we leave parts of ourselves pink
like the flowers inside us.”


Misha Brandon Speck isn’t an artist or whatever, but definitely likes writing poems, making music, taking photographs, and writing short biographical quips in the third person. They live in Portland, Oregon and has a certificate in independent publishing from the IPRC.


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 : Monozygotic | Codependent by Stephanie Bryant Anderson : Review


Monozygotic | Codependent by Stephanie Bryant Anderson
72 pgs | Blue Hour Press, 2015


Stephanie Bryant Anderson’s book, Monozygotic | Codependent opens with a quote from Sylvia Plath:

“I do not know who I am, where I am going – and I am the one who has to decide the answers to these hideous questions.”

These poems encourage us to accept that we will find more than one answer to these questions and we can change our answers over and over again. These answers are not set in stone because we’re not stagnant, we grow and change and so should the questions and answers we ask and find of ourselves.

Monozygotic

\ˌmä-nə-zī-ˈgä-tik\
adjective
(of twins) derived from a single ovum, and so identical.

Codependent

Codependent relationships are a type of dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports or enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement.

Three things floated through my mind as I read this book:

The first line out of Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina:

“The day I was born started out bad, and it only got worse.”

A song from the Far From Any Road playlist:

“Mama, can you hear the devil?”

and how many people have told me:

“You bring your family in here with you. You’re here and I can feel them in here with us too.”

I’m going to tell you I read this at work and it just made me jump out of my chair and do quite a bit of praise hand (there are many different ways to do a praise hand, this one involved me reaching out towards my computer screen as if I could communicate through my fingertips the amount of yes and bless my heart found in these words).

The book rounds out perfectly starting with “Loneliness Came Inside My Home, Unpacked It Things” ending with “Sometimes I Pack my Things and Leave.”

It makes you think that loneliness isn’t something that vacations, it’s something that makes a home of you and even when you make your mind to leave it, it doesn’t mean it will leave you, just like family. Maybe loneliness is something your family makes in you.

There are a lot of poems I read that talk about the struggle with family but they can move on to other topics. I can’t run away from my family, I’ve tried and I always end up right back on the Welcome Home mat. I’ve always felt it’s made me a failure but this book doesn’t make me feel like that: it makes me think that a lot of the things I’m looking for lie in the broken stove in my grandparents’ kitchen, the lock that leads to the basement we used to hide in, in the stories that we tell over and over. This book of poetry makes me think that maybe it’s not a failure to find pieces of my family lining my laughter, tripping over their regrets whenever I become the person I need to be, or waking up in the middle of the night to find their ghosts staring at me.


Monozygotic | Codependent is a perfect bound, soft cover poetry book written by Stephanie Bryant Anderson. She is the founder of Red Paint Hill Publishing. She has worked also as editor with Up the Staircase Quarterly, Inkception Books, and she served on the Editorial Board for The Manatee, Southern New Hampshire University’s literary journal. Nominated for Best of the Net, storySouth Million Writers Award, and twice for the Pushcart Prize, Stephanie is the mother to two amazing boys. Besides poetry she enjoys kickboxing and math.


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 | Pansy by Andrea Gibson | Review


120 pages, $15, Write Bloody Publishing | purchase here or here | review by Trista Mateer.

The first time I read something by Andrea Gibson, I wasn’t sure how to wrap my teeth around it. I wanted to keep taking bites but the taste was something else altogether. What I mean to say is that when you find yourself knee deep in Andrea’s work, the way they express vulnerability with such immense strength is going to make you lose your footing a little bit. What I mean to say is that Pansy is such a soft name for such a heavy book.

With something like this, the only way you’re going to understand what I’m talking about is to just chew on it yourself for a while, so here are a few of the lines from Pansy that messed me up. And I mean this in the kindest way: I hope they mess you up too.



“All the wars we’ve fought
have turned our shine into rust;
now we can’t touch each other’s trust
without a tetanus shot.”

—from “Prism”


“I am already building a museum
for every treasure you unearth in the rock
bottom. Holy vulnerable cliff.
God mason, heart heavier
than all the bricks.
Say this is what the pain made of you:
and open open open road.
An avalanche of feel it all.

Don’t let anyone ever tell you
you are too much.”

—from “Angels Of The Get-Through”


“My want pounds so loud
the neighbors think we’re fucking
when I’m just trying to find the nerve
to touch your face.”

—from “Pansies”



Known for their poignant performances, Andrea Gibson’s third book is a testament to the fact that their words are just as capable of finding power on paper. However, to ease us out of Mental Health Awareness Month, I thought I’d include two of Andrea’s spoken word videos dealing with issues of depression and anxiety: “The Madness Vase, AKA The Nutritionist” and “Panic Button Collector” (both featured in this book).



Andrea Gibson is a queer/genderqueer poet and activist whose work deconstructs the current political machine, highlighting issues such as gender, sexuality, patriarchy, white supremacy, capitalism, classism, illness, love, and spirituality. Gibson is a cofounder of Stay Here With Me, an online website and community focused on suicide prevention. Gibson has published three books of poetry, released six full-length spoken-word albums, and is the editor of We Will Be Shelter, an anthology of social justice poetry published by Write Bloody Publishing.

Find out more at andreagibson.org.
Connect with Andrea on Tumblr and Twitter @andreagibson.


Contributing Editor


Trista Mateer is a writer and poet living outside of Baltimore, Maryland. She believes in lipstick, black tea, and owning more books than she can ever possibly read. Known for her eponymous blog, she is also the author of two collections of poetry.


Sway This Way | Said The Manic to The Muse
 by Jeanann Verlee | Review


120 pgs, $15 | Order on Amazon. | Review by SaraEve Fermin

Said The Manic to The Muse
 by Jeanann Verlee


I was born of the fist. The hot irish temper.
Trailer parks. Pabst Blue Ribbon. Men in work boots,
crusted wife beaters. Fire ants. Weevils. Moth wings on window sills.

—from “Brawler”


This is the Jeanann Verlee that many people are familiar with. A poem that can be found on many Tumblr™ accounts, it is one of the most honest and vivid poems in Verlee’s second book, one that catalogues the life of a woman, an artist, a survivor, a lover, a fighter, a manic, a dog lover—with the turn of each page, she lays out patchwork of poems that can be both breathtaking and gut-punching.

You hate me. You are too kind to say so.
I’m sorry I told our stories. I am low. I never thanked you
for sacrifice.

—from “Genetics of Regret”


A loose litany, this poem is a reminder that there are skeletons in every pen, between the pages of every book. Verlee rattles off a succinct list of apologies to her mother for regrets never uttered, for truths revealed and for coming into her own. It is a gripping piece, one that had me grasping my own pen and paper by the end.

I gifted you the will of gunpowder, a matchstick tongue
& all you managed was a shredded sweater & a police warning?
You should be legend by now.
Girl in an orange jumpsuit, a headline.

—from “The Mania Speaks”


In the last third of her book, Verlee directly faces some serious demons, one of them being Manic Depression. “The Mania Speaks” is a persona piece dressed in red at a funeral—it demands your attention. It is the siren call of the bad blood dancing in the brain, lit up for everyone to see. Beautiful and twisted, it is one of the darker yet playful poems in the book.

Still, nothing prepared my heart for this:

…Life is a dog.
And it doesn’t even matter if she is a good dog

(she is) or a kind dog (she is) or pretty dog (she is)
or an expensive dog (she isn’t)…

—what matters here
is the night she fought those men.

—from “Why You Cry At the End Of Her Life”


I am a dog mother. I believe in the magic of animals—my dog is intuitive, he knows when I am going to have a seizure. The poem spoke to me on multiple levels. Verlee confronts her own demons regarding motherhood in several poems in this collection of poetry, such as “The Session” and “Mathematician”.

Jeanann Verlee’s Said The Manic to the Muse is a powerful second collection from this Write Bloody author. Filled with truth wrapped in glitter, guilt, guts and glory, it is a read worth the time and the processing that will ensure.




Jeanann Verlee is author of Racing Hummingbirds, recipient of the Independent Publisher Book Award Silver Medal in poetry, and Said the Manic to the Muse. She has been awarded the Third Coast Poetry Prize and the Sandy Crimmins National Prize for Poetry and her work has appeared in The New York Quarterly, Rattle, and failbetter, among others. Verlee wears polka dots and kisses Rottweilers. She believes in you. Learn more at jeanannverlee.com.

Connect with her: Tumblr + Facebook.


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 | Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine | Review


Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
160 pgs | Graywolf Press, 2014


I read Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine by the flashlight of my phone in a dark parking garage ten minutes after I bought it. Here’s why:

I. The Texture


The texture is beautiful and the font is simple and important, perfect for scribbling notes and writing reactions in the margins.

II. The Pictures


The pictures, half of them I don’t understand, and I think that’s the point. There’s no caption under them and you’ve got to create your own understanding of them, almost like they are there for pause but that pause is not meant to be quiet.

III. The Cover


The cover is purely definitive of Zora Neale Hurston’s quote from How It Feels to Be Colored Me: “I feel most colored when thrown against a sharp white background”.[1]

The cover is a black hoodie cut off at the neck (a head post execution) against a pure white background. The hoodies, he’s looking at you, looking at me, he’s not letting us look away. He knows we’ve looked away long enough, denied truth long enough. We’ve ignored him and it in life and tried to in death but this cover is like the murdered asked the Grim Reaper to let them come back from death so that they could haunt the living right.

IV. The Content.


Citizen reads as one of the most terrifying landscapes in the world.

The Bolton Skid in Yorkshire[2] looks innocent enough when it starts out but as you move upstream, it literally turns into one of the most deadly places in the world. No one has ever come out of it alive.

The more you read Citizen, the further you tread into the black (did she mean blood?) stained pages, the more you think that you can handle this, that you can swim out onto the other side. But then, somewhere around page all of them, the focus goes from the personal to the public and then mixing them so that you don’t even know which is which and the microaggressions they’ve told you to forget turn into breaking news headlines, and you lose your footing, you lose your place, and you’re pulled under, exposed to a truth so powerful you cannot deny it any longer, you can no longer un-know it.

Before you know it, the book has swallowed you up whole. You cannot come back.

You are not meant to come back.

V. The Reaction


I’ve been carrying this book around for a week. I wish there was a way I could sew it onto the door to my heart. I wish there was a way I could inject the words into my bloodstream because you always forget the important things when you need them most. It feels as if these are the only ways you cannot forget this book. You need this armed with you every time you walk out that door, every time you log on to the internet and these are the only ways you think you could never forget this book. This book is more than necessary, more than vital, but I can’t think of a word that covers all of that yet.

I’ve been told go into work that helps people with the hope that your job will no longer be needed, but knowing that it’s a long time coming, if ever. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine is a series of poems, a collection of truths, that are written in the hopes that we won’t need them anymore, but knowing full well that time isn’t coming soon. But the only way to get to where we won’t need these truths anymore is to heal and write in the time that we do. So Rankine does the impossible: she writes, she heals.

You won’t come back from this book, but you will come out better.



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: Kissing Angles by Sarah Fletcher | REVIEW


32 pgs, £4
Order from Dead Ink or Amazon.
Review by Jade Mitchell


Kissing Angles is not your typical exploration of love.


Sarah Fletcher slips through the surface and explores the cracks beneath, for this isn’t love that we know of. This love is darker. Whether it be through playful visions of lovers dressed in drag, or through love affairs with boys from New Orleans, what Fletcher brilliantly captures is the kind of love that causes friction – the electric pulse that connects you with another. Through poems such as “The Wrestler and The Sailor’s Daughter”, Fletcher captures this intensity instantly.

“As she moves on him
like an approaching tide,
she says she wants
to match his skin, be turned
to pearl string purple,
just like him.”


But it isn’t just love that Fletcher delves into. It’s the repercussion of it. Fletcher looks into the loss and the longing for what once was, capturing the highly-strung emotion. 
One of her strongest poems, “This Villanelle Has Two Endings” explores this perfectly. With the juxtaposing stanzas building up the essence of hope, it also reveals the barren reality, that the golden image of your ideal future may not always come true.


“You hold my hand, and hold our child’s too.
(The bleeding will subside. I leave the room.)”


What Fletcher also takes influence from is the love affairs of the past. From history, she picks women such as the Kraut Girls and Eva Braun; all of whom faced prejudice throughout their lives for the love they indulged in. She pinpoints the prejudice that the Kraut Girls faced due to their supposed betrayal for the men that captivated their hearts, whilst capturing the intensity of Eva’s relationship with Adolf Hitler from her own perspective.

“Against my yellow hair, he said I looked like flame.
He touched me, then, and did not burn.”

Kissing Angles is love cracked open, with Sara Fletcher conjuring the hunger, the ambition and the rawness of the feeling, making it a powerful read from a promising poet.

Sarah Fletcher is a young British-American poet. In 2012, she was a Foyle Young Poet, and in 2013, She won the Christopher Tower Poetry Prize. She has been published in The Rialto, the Morning Star, and The London Magazine. Her debut pamphlet ‘Kissing Angles’, ‘a sexy, witty, bold collection’ (Gillian Clarke), is available on Dead Ink.


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.