Poetry Review: Blood, Booze, and Other Things in Nature

C.E Hoffman’s chapbook collection Blood, Booze and Other Things in Nature is definitely a must read if you like your poetry vulnerable and thought provoking . This collection is raw and in your face and doesn’t shy away from telling you the harsh truth about the world but the poet does in a way that’s witty and full of  dark humor. The poet addresses complex issues of mental health, love, sex, parenthood, and poverty. They address the inequalities that hit you in the gut and make you question the status quo.. I’ve never read a poetry collection like this before. I’ll talk about 4 poems from the book that I really liked. Their poetry feels like thoughts I’ve had that I have been too afraid to write down; much less share with the world.

The first poem is “Bloom (Blow Job) “and I really liked how this poem transitioned from giving a blowjob to other things in the poet’s life.  I interpreted as things to talk about or are talked about after a blowjob. The line in this poem that really resonated with me was  “you wipe spit from your cheek when/your lover says it was the hardest they came in their life, and/you believe them “(Hoffman). I’ve had this said to me quite a few times and my friend has as well. It’s a common line that men say to their partners/flings. Yes, MEN, we do talk about these things.

Another poem that resonated with me was “Magnificent Shits” in which the poet talks about how they imagine their unborn child to be like  and how much they already love them . I resonated with this poem because as a parent myself, I’ve had similar thoughts. I resonated with the lines, “But no matter where you go/forever drives your soul/YOU ARE A MASTERPIECE that shits and smiles and needs and creates and kisses/explores and speeds “(Hoffman). These capture that feeling of loving your child and acknowledging their humanness. 

Another poem I really liked from this collection is “Prenatal Yoga aka Relearning Breath”. It deals with complex issues of “passing” and even deals with the poet dealing with privilege. The line that I really liked from this poem was,And I know it’s strange to find peace in a space of appropriation/’cause 8 outta 9 of our faces are white/ so when it comes to “passing”/ I really can’t talk, can I? “(Hoffman) As a woman of color who’s spent most of her time in predominantly white spaces, I understand this sentiment of feeling like an “other” or “out of place”. Often at times, I try to blend in and 9 out of 10 times, I am able to without incident. However, there is that 10 % where I feel uncomfortable because something unintentionally prejudiced is said or a wrong assumption is made about me. 

New Moon in Cancer (Radical Honesty 101) was my favorite poem in this book. I interpreted this poem as the anxiety of the poet written in verse. I loved how honest Hoffman is in addressing everything that goes through their mind openly talking about their mental health, relationships, and what it’s like to be a writer in today’s environment of instagram, twitter, etc. One of my favorite lines from this poem was, “I don’t believe in The One./I’ve initiated most of my break-ups, cheated on basically/even in open relationships-/Shit. Maybe I just suck at this.” )Hoffman. I feel like Hoffman basically describes almost all of my romantic relationships and the thoughts I have about that part of my life. Examining and deconstructing my relationships this past year, I’ve often thought, “man, maybe I just suck at this, let me quit while I haven’t slashed anyone’s tires yet”(haha). The other line that I really liked from this poem was “Honestly I’m sick of wanting to get better, dying to be better, trying to do better than whatever I am or can” (Hoffman). Being in this recovery journey from my BPD feels like that sometimes. I have a strict routine I adhere to, read so many books about BPD, monitor my moods and honestly, it gets tiresome at times. Like Hoffman, I get sick of trying to “be better” and I often wonder when I can stop being so vigilant and rigid in everything I do. When can I say I’m finally better and can stop doing so much?

Blood, Booze, and other things in Nature is definitely the poetry collection for you if you’ve ever felt like a pariah, like an outcast, like an outsider in this world that tries to tone you down for being too crazy, too loud, and  too bizarre for it. Reading this poetry collection is the medicine you need for that beautiful and chaotic soul of yours that refuses to conform to the norms and expectations of normalcy in this patriarchal society.

Below is a link to the book:

Don’t believe me? Here are other testimonials about the book and the author:

Praise for Blood, Booze, and Other Things in Nature: 

This book resonates with anyone who’s ever called a crisis line and had them respond, “Oh wow that’s a lot.” This chapbook isn’t a cocktail. It’s a shot. 

-Kit Stitches 

This is no nipple-slip, no wardrobe malfunction. This is deliberate, personal exposure, revealing heart, head, and the wounds of living. The battle songs, the laments, and the healing gather here. 

-Neil S Reddy 

This collection is a dirty meditation, a longing for escape, an ecstatic fuck you to the traps and ties of societal expectation. A delightful, messy romp through the entrails of the heart. 

-Nicole Morning 

This is the kind of writing that inspires fandom.

-Alexandine Ogundimu, Filth Magazine

Praise for C E Hoffman: 

C E Hoffman is a fearless writer.

-Jack Wang, author of We Two Alone and winner of the Danuta Gleed Literary Award 

The human spirit remains fresh-voiced, optimistic and youthful in Hoffman’s imaginative writing.

-Martin Millar, author of Lonely Werewolf Girl and winner of the World Fantasy Award 

Hoffman’s writing style reminds one of Burroughs at his most straightforward or Irvine Welsh at his strangest, but with a presentation dominated primarily by women and queer characters- a refreshing change in this particular milieu.…Hoffman is definitely a writer to watch for, and I look forward to what they give us next.

-Justin Bookworm, Razorcake Issue #123

Sex and the City meets Black Mirror.

-Alana M Kelley, Maudlin House Magazine 

Poetry Review: Love Pangs

My copy of Love Pangs is a little banged up because I keep rereading it

Melia Cogan has done it again with her second poetry collection. She paints a picture of the beauty of love and the euphoria it brings to one’s life. This book will make you weak at your knees and perhaps even want to get you on a dating app to look for that special someone to experience the magic of love. Cogan explores the mosaic of emotions that come with love. Through Cogan’s verse, I was transported to the alluring and sometimes tumultuous journey of love. 

 I’ll talk about my 2 favorite poems from the poetry collection. 

One of the poems that really resonated with me was “Should I Allow Myself”. I liked how profound this poem is-it speaks about allowing yourself to fall in love recklessly while risking your vulnerability. It’s risking everything to be in the moment of that special memory of love. This is presented in the lines  “Together/the possibilities/reach for me in the night/and primarily/I wish they were you (Cogan)”. It’s a desire for longing to be with that special someone. 

The other poem that I really related to was “I’m Hiding from Love”because that’s kind of where I’m at right now.  This is captured in the lines “Well. I enjoy my boat not toppling over in the sea/and my house not catching on fire (Cogan). Cogan is perceptive of what heartbreak feels like and how some of us are so burned by it,we’ll avoid it at all costs. The metaphors of the boat and fire feel like a truth I’ve encountered many times.  It’s how anger and sorrow makes me feel like I’m either drowning or burning inside when it comes to heartbreak. Cogan captures these strong emotions in an intelligent and creative way that I’m sure resonates with mine and others’ experiences with the agony and torment that grief from heartbreak can bring. 

 I would recommend this poetry collection if you like to explore the depths of love and the complex emotions that come with it.  

Here is the link to the book:

Poetry Review: You Might Feel This

You Might Feel This by William Thomas Brumley

William Thomas Brumley’s debut poetry collection “You Might Feel This” is aptly named because every single poem made me feel some kind of emotion. As a person who has anxiety and depression the poetry in this book really resonated with me. The poet captures what anxiety and depression feels like with imagery that paints the numbness and darkness of it. Another theme that Brumley tackles is the complexity of romantic relationships . He shows the intensity of emotions that is felt during conflict or a breakup. I also want to mention that aside from the content, what I really loved about this book was the format. You can tell that the author put a lot of thought into making sure it was well put together because of how professional and flawless it looks. He even includes a page after each poem asking your thoughts about it or you’re also given the freedom to write your own poem. As someone who is always looking for inspiration to write poetry, this was a nice surprise for me. I’ve picked three poems that impacted me from this collection to talk about.

The first poem “Familiar Friend” I have interpreted as a poem about when anxiety comes to visit you. Anxiety for me feels like an annoying friend that visits at the most inconvenient times and the poet captures that when he states, “Fear is an old familiar friend of whom I’ve fallen out of touch with/Why does this shape haunt me? Can they not find another for torment?” (Brumley, 7-9) The way Brumley questions why anxiety haunts him brings a raw intensity in this poem about anxiety that’s not talked about. It indeed does feel like torment and torture at times.

Another poem that impacted me was “Stormy Nights”. I interpreted this poem about how your romantic partner distances themselves away from you because they’re on the verge of breaking up with you. I know many people including myself that have been in this situation and it’s awful; especially if you’re not ready to let go of your partner. When Brumley states, “Please, please, don’t leave thee here/I can feel your presence is near/ One more climb, one more calm/ Upon the ruckus sea” ( Brumley, 12-14),these lines draw up an image of someone pleading to their partner to not leave and to give them one more chance. Brumley did an incredible job capturing the sorrow and desperation someone in this situation would feel like.

“Trepidation” is another poem that impacted me. I have interpreted this poem as the calm you feel after anxiety leaves and questioning how long it will last. This is stated when the poet states, “May I keep this sealed up tight in a bottle?” (Brumley,9) As a person who had suffered from chronic anxiety and depression, if I had a string of good days filled with hope, I would question how long it would last. What’s also interesting to me about this poem is that Brumley addresses people who suffer from anxiety in wishing that they too get a reprieve from anxiety when he states “I wish this ship could sail/Sail far across the sea of tranquility/For it shall reach others who have been trapped under the forceful thumb of anxiety” (Brumbley,10-12) Brumley shows humanity in acknowledging other sufferers of anxiety.

Mr.Brumley presents an honest depiction of the many complex emotions felt during periods of anxiety, depression and conflict with an insightful awareness. I would highly recommend this poetry collection that will not only make you feel something but will also make you think. I’m excited to read and review his next poetry book Finish Your Thoughts. Below is a link for both You Might Feel This and Finish Your Thoughts:

Poetry Review: Visceral

Visceral by Melia Cogan

The debut collection of poems Visceral from Melia Cogan is appropriately named since it will make you feel a multitude of intense emotions internally. As a person that feels intense emotions, I loved this book. The book is divided into 3 sections titled Love, Rage, and Death. Reading this book felt like going through a roller coaster of emotions-from sexy to anger to sadness. Personally, for me, this is a good thing. I resonate with poetry that makes me feel my emotions.  I picked my favorite poem from each section. This was hard since all the poetry in this collection is amazing. 

The first section Love captures the magical feeling of what it’s like to be in love, make love, and be loved. Her poems in this section makes even the most jaded of us feel like there is a world where love is possible. The first poem “Daemon-Lover” leaves you breathless with the raw emotion and sensuality felt throughout the poem.  The second stanza is fire as it states, “With a spirit strong as seventy/As his throbbing passion sears me/ With its ‘blind encompassing throbbing power ”(Cogan, 22-25)   It makes you feel like you are witnessing passion on display. You might have to take a cold shower after reading this poem. The other poems in this section not only capture the passion of being in love but also the complexity of other feelings that come with it. 

The next section of the book is Rage, and you feel the anger and rage within this section. 

My favorite poem in this section is Women’s Inheritance which captures the essence of what’s like being a woman in the 21st century. It addresses the misogyny that our modern patriarchal society continues to administer to women. The poem also conveys the disappointment that women feel after being used and discarded nonchalantly by men. The sixth stanza captures this feeling as it states, “Finally, you who I love with my whole self / Could not display this mythical manly bravery/ To tell me the truth/ Why not?” (Cogan, 30-33).  The other poems in this section captures the anger felt with different experiences in life ranging from expectations in relationships to abandonment issues. Cogan expresses a raw truth about anger that most people are afraid to express and that is a kind of bravery you don’t see often. 

The last section is Death and I’ll just say that you should have a box of tissues by your side because it will probably make you cry. In this section, Cogan is versatile in exploring the theme of death. In this section, my favorite poem is Remember Me for the Birthdays which is how the poet wants to be remembered by her loved ones. The eleventh stanza conveys this as it states, “Remember how I filled you with the urge/to push forward and explore/To engage life, expanding in all good directions” (Cogan, 37-40). Cogan is skillful at portraying grief in a conscientious manner that’s both thoughtful and respectful. 

Melia Cogan brings a raw vulnerability and talent to her debut collection. I highly recommend this poetry collection if you are looking for a versatile collection that explores the depth of the human experience. I’m excited to read and review her next poetry book, Love Pangs. Below are the links for both Visceral and Love Pangs

Visceral: https://www.amazon.com/Visceral-Melia-Cogan/dp/B0915DH7W4

Love Pangs: https://www.amazon.com/Love-Pangs-Melia-Cogan/dp/B09PHJXX19

Poetry Review: Loving Her

Loving Her by Timothy Robare

So here is a short anecdote before I start my review and how I ended up buying “Loving Her”. In late February, my bank was merging with another bank and the bank had issued me a new debit card but I was confused as to when it would be active. I was still using my old debit card and wanted to check if it was still working and of course decided to buy something off Amazon to do it. I already had “Loving Her” on my Wishlist and in true BPD impulsivity I bought it within a few minutes. I didn’t read the reviews or much about it. I just knew it was a poetry book about love and that seemed like a good reason to buy it. And after reading it, I can say that this is one of those times my BPD impulsivity really worked for me because I really enjoyed this book.

Timothy Robare’s Poetry collection “ Loving Her” really resonated with me in various ways . When I first started reading this book, I thought wow, the next guy I get serious about is getting a copy of this book to understand how a woman wants to be loved. Dudes ,take my advice, if you want to understand women, pick up this book and read it. . What I loved about this book is how Robare offers a unique and raw openness by sharing his experiences with love in this book. He reveals a complicated story of the turmoil and miracle that love can be and feel like. Reading this felt like reading a journal filled with Robare’s most private and intimate thoughts about love. This book is divided into 6 sections which are: “How I Want to Love Her”, “How I Do Love Her”, “How I Cannot Love Her”, “How I Did Love Her”, “How I Learned to Love Her”, and “Elizabeth”. I will talk about a poem or 2 poems from each section that really impacted me.

The first section “How I Want to Love Her” is exactly what the title of the section implies. Reading the poetry from this section made me think, “Hmm, I want to be loved like that.” One poem that really spoke to me was Curves and Crashes because of how Robare expresses his feelings for his partner in a way that made my jaded black heart almost melt. This is presented in the lines “She is not perfect, I never wanted perfect/I only want all that she is” (Robare) really shocked me because I thought “Damn, that there are men in this day and age who can express their feelings for their partners in such a beautiful way”.

In the second section, “How I Do Love Her”, Robare covers poetry about conflicting feelings about love. A poem that resonated with me was Carver-Robare speaks with passion about the juxtaposition of feelings love can bring. This is shown with the first few lines “She cuts smiles into my face/Carves sorrow into my heart/ Love is death” (Robare). I relate to the anxiety I have felt when my partner brought me love along with pain. It’s a complicated and uneasy emotion to deal with but Robare presents this feeling in an accurate way. Another poem I related to in this section is Jealous . This poem talks about the powerful and intense feelings that jealousy can bring. This is presented in the lines- “He looks at her/I want to vaporize him” (Robare). Oh man, I’ve felt that many times in relationships. It could be an unhealthy way to be possessive over someone but it’s just how it is or has been for some of us.

In the third section “How I Cannot Love Her” deals with anxiety and conflict felt during a relationship. The poem that I related to was Lightning Crashes. It that talks about how chemistry can come into play when resolving a conflict. This is shown in the lines, “Tears fell down like lightning/ Apologies constantly following thunder/Lips struck like matches/ catching my heart on fire/every time” (Robare). This reminded me of being with one particular partner who I would constantly fight with. I would get so mad at him that I wanted to punch him but then he would kiss me and well the fight would stop. With him, it was like one touch on my hand or a kiss and I was breathless with desire. Robare did an outstanding job presenting this sentiment. Another poem I liked from this section was Run. It’s a poem about the anxiety you have when you don’t feel good enough for your partner. This is presented in the lines “I need to run/ So I don’t hurt her, Don’t let her down/That’s what I’m good at after all” (Robare). There have been so many times I’ve had this feeling in relationships and I asked myself questions or had thoughts like “What does he see in me?”, “ I don’t deserve someone as good as him” and “How long will it be before he leaves me?” It’s a dark and scary place to be and Robare expresses this in a very honest and vulnerable way.

The fourth section “How I did love her” talks more of the complexities of love. I love the poem Whole Eyes because it shows how spell binding falling in love can feel like. The lines “Her damn mesmerizing eyes/For once I felt home/ the home I’ve always craved” (Robare). When I fall in love, that’s how it feels like for me, that person feels like a home I want to forever reside in. It’s a lovely feeling to feel like you have someone to call home. The other poem from this section that I liked was Broken Bones because of the raw and intense way Robare explained the pain of a breakup with the lines “She reached in me/Somewhere I can’t explain/ pull something out/ with a catastrophic pain” (Robare) It’s a feeling I know too well. A breakup to me feels like a pain so terrible , it’s a catastrophe in my world. I admire Robare for not shying away from talking about the intensity of grief that is felt because of a breakup.

The fifth section, “How she taught me to love” presents the positive side of love. I like the poem Unwavering because it talks about a “secure kind of love”. The lines “She began to build me up/Higher than I had ever risen”. It’s incredible how the right partner can build you in a way that ‘s empowering. Another poem I loved from this section was Extinction which presents how wonderful love can be. The lines “I know we aren’t perfect, not even close/ But it is a small glimpse of perfection” (Robare) Being with a good partner can feel like that. The world falls away while you’re consumed by making this perfect memory of love with them. It’s an invigorating and powerful feeling of euphoria.

The sixth section “Elizabeth” is dedicated to his latest breakup and wow this chapter really resonated with me. I could write about how I related to each poem but I won’t do that to y ’all. Instead I’ll write about the two poems that really spoke to me. The poem Late Nights really resonated with me, especially the lines “I wonder how it was so easy, how you did it so quickly/I am in a million pieces, which ones first, how do I pick” (Robare) When I go through the grief on a breakup, I think I’m the only one that feels pain and hurt and assume that for them, it was easy to break things off and walk away unscathed. And I’m left shattered and I’m angry. I remember thinking at one time that I was over dramatic saying one ex left me shattered in a million pieces but now I think it was an accurate description to how I felt at the time. Another poem I liked was Best. The poem is about wanting to always be there for your ex. I give Robare a lot of credit for having the maturity do this. The lines , “ I am always here, if you ever needed anything because forever is what I meant” (Robare) . It’s admirable that he can do this because I honestly can’t. It would be nice if I could but I lack the emotional maturity to do so. This is also a beautiful poem because of how Elizabeth’s humanity is conveyed in a way that respects her. I also want to add that reading this section added an element of healing to my life. It shifted my perspective a bit on some past trauma from past romantic relationships.

What I also found refreshing about this book is that while there were lots of raw emotions to be felt I really didn’t find him blaming any of his exes. In fact, I hold Robare in high esteem with how he expressed his accountability for his actions and how he really respected the humanity of his past partners throughout the book even when he was talking about something really painful. There is hardly any saltiness to be found anywhere in this book, for that you can just read my blog. Lol. Seriously, reading Robare’s poetry inspired me to change my direction a bit in how I write about love. I’m not going to drastically change how I write but I could do better in shifting my perspective a bit and instead of constantly writing about how love is shit, I could write more about how love can be a good thing. I also think Robare is very talented for putting into words what many of us are too scared to express. He’s brave for that. I also want to thank Tim Robare for writing this book and publishing it because it almost felt like serendipity for me to buy it and read it at the time that I did. And of course, I highly recommend this book if you like poetry that speaks to your heart. Below is the link for Loving Her:

Loving Her by Timothy Robare

Poetry Review: When Pens Become Megaphones

When Pens Become Megaphones

McKenzie Harpe’s debut collection, When Pens Became Megaphones is aptly named because of how powerful the writing is in this book. The poems in this book are passionate and compelling in examining a variety of themes. A few of the themes covered in this book are mental health, relationships, family, racism, and social injustice. . The book is divided into four sections which are, “Speak With Yo’ Mind”, “Speak with Yo’ Soul”, “Speak with Yo Fist” and “Speak with Yo’ Heart”. Harpe does not mince words or is subtle to express herself in her poetry and that is something I greatly admire. I also want to mention that the format and presentation of the book is very professional and flawless in how it’s laid out making it very appealing for the reader. I will discuss 2 poems from each section that really spoke to me.

The first section “Speak With Yo’ Mind” talks frankly and honestly about anxiety and the feelings that come along with it and how the poet copes. The poet presents a true understanding of how some people feel with the burden of anxious thoughts and how trying to find peace with that can feel like an uphill battle. A poem that spoke to me about dealing with anxiety was Medicine. The poem Medicine talks about the healthy coping mechanism that music can be for someone with mental health issues. This is presented in the fourth stanza with the lines “music is my only redemption/the only prevention/for lost hope” (Harpe,15) As a person with mental health issues myself, music is one of my healthiest coping mechanisms. When the world gets too “noisy” for me, I tend to put my earbuds in and play something to either calm me down or hype me up depending on my mood. Another poem from this section that resonated with me was Evicted. Evicted presents a picture about kicking anxiety out. This is presented when the poet states, “see, I only came to organize/my thoughts on my hanger, /but now I’m cleaning out more than my closet. /I’m kicking you out, anxiety” (Harpe,17) There is a power in that verse which shows the poet taking her power back from anxiety taking up space in her mind. As a person who also suffers from anxiety, I completely get it.

The second section pays a tribute to where the poets come from and her family. Harpe does this by talking about the women in her family as well as her friends. One poem that I especially loved was My Day Ones where she captures the ease that comes from long term friendships or connections. This is stated in the poem, “a necessary vent/ after years/of personal growth/and that vibes still the same” (Harpe,31) This poem resonated with me because it reminded me of the connection I have with my childhood friends from Hawaii. Weeks or months can pass by without us talking and out of the blue one of us will say something in our group chat and we’ll catch up on life. Another poem I absolutely loved from this section was Auntie. It displays the resilience and strength of a woman who has breast cancer. Harpe shows this woman’s strength from the first line, “I know a woman/who’s not afraid of monsters” (Harpe,36). This poem resonates with me when I think about breast cancer survivors and victims of breast cancer . Another thing I like about this poem is that Harpe captures the essence of this woman going through something really harrowing in a way that respects her humanity.

The third section Harpe explores the great social injustices that have been happening and still happen in this country. Harpe does this by talking frankly and honestly about racism and white privilege. The poem Armed is one of my favorite poems in the whole book. It speaks about how words can be weapons of change. When Harpe says, “I load my pen with thoughts/the aim with precision/ spit fire on these pages/ and hope you see my vision/ this is more than just a poem (Harpe,59), she speaks the truth with how people tend to underestimate the power that artists can have when to comes to social change. This poem reminded me that one of the reasons I write is to give a voice to the marginalized immigrant community that I come from. Another poem that really resonated with me in this section was the poem The Five Senses. This poem addresses how white privilege continues to undermine and oppress minorities in this country. I was blown away by how the poet used all of five senses to do this. For example, for the sense of hearing in stanza 2, the poet states “what does it sound like? /hearing a native language/and calling it a threat. /yelling at minorities/to go back home/to places they never even met/like we didn’t forget/you never discovered/this country to begin with, (Harpe,66). That stanza gives me goosebumps from how powerful it is in addressing racists and calling out their hypocrisy. This part in this poem really resonated too since I have been subject to prejudice and discrimination due to my ethnicity and former immigration status.

The fourth section “Speak with Yo’ Heart” explores themes related to love and it’s not just centered on romantic love, but it also talks about self-love. I really resonate with the poem Dramatic. In the first stanza the poet states “when you date a poet/understand that your attitude/will become similes/your emotions/will become metaphors/your actions/will be the starting line/for each stanza ( Harpe,83) How true is this for many poets who will take their inspiration from their romantic relationships. Some of us even have a blog dedicated to this type of poetry (😉😏). Another poem that really stood out from this section was Saving Grace. In this poem, Harpe talks about her “toxic relationship with anxiety” and how it has impacted her. A powerful verse in this poem was “this time I felt sad/lonely/and nonexistent. /turns out, he had changed into this person/called depression (Harpe,93). Harpe shows how agonizing it feels like for a lot of us when our anxiety turns into depression. I also want to mention that the end of this poem was very hope and filled with faith. Once again, Harpe captures the painful truth that most of us with anxiety and depression must live with.

With her debut collection, Harpe presents an amazing talent for being open and honest about life, identity, social justice, and mental health. My only complaint about this book is that I wanted to read more. Yes, that’s how good this poetry collection was. I don’t usually read a book in one sitting but Harpe’s writing captivated me in such a way that I couldn’t put it down. I highly recommend this book for anyone who likes poetry that’s inspiring and empowering. I look forward from reading more from this poet. Below is a link to When Pens Become Megaphones