Book Review · Reading

#SummerReadingProgram Book 5: Afterlife by Melissa Jennings

Rating: Four out of five stars

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I finished this book minutes before the local Summer Reading Program ended. I didn’t reach the goal of six books, but I read five books just the same. The fifth book is Afterlife, a collection of poetry by Melissa Jennings.

This chapbook is a small collection of poems about love, and finding it after a time of darkness; self-love after a period of abuse. One line that summarizes this message is “Sometimes/ We must fight/ The darkness/To understand/ The light” (page 4, location 49).

I love modern poetry. Poetry is poetry, whether it’s a centuries-old sestina or free-verse from Tumblr. Jennings’ form is of the latter, while her command of the language is as poetic as the former. My favorite lines include:

“My sadness is politics…” (page 12, location 115)

“Do not love these gardens,/ If you despise the dirt” (page 25, location 213)

“Crystallising my storms…” (page 35, location 257)

“Poetry tells me:/ There are different kinds of light” (page 104, location 719)

However, my own taste for modern poetry is picky. While I love and support modern poetry, it needs to have that balance between raw emotion and new-ness – I am not a fan of clichés or obvious statements. This chapbook only has one instance of the latter, when the poem on page 73 and location 469 states “I am feeling a lot right now.” Within the context of the poem, this line makes sense; on its own, the statement is the sole reason poets write poems – because poets feel a lot.

I felt like I could interact with her poems – in one instance, a poem (page 68, location 433) gave a question: “40 years ignoring yourself. How many minutes is that?” I got curious and brought out my calculator and responded with 21,024,000. Twenty-one million and twenty-four thousand minutes. This exchange made me feel like I was part of the poem, piecing together a puzzle alongside the author.

Occasional poems contain the use of braces – those {squiggly brackets} which, when the words in the braces came together, created a poem within the poem. I absolutely loved this! One such example is: “I cannot tell {if I am}/{Delirious} or drunk. I cannot tell if {you are}/ Medicine or {poison}” (page 77, location 491).

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys poetry.

Picture from Goodreads.
This review has also been posted on Goodreads.

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