Jennae Cecelia: Bright Minds Empty Souls

Bright Minds Empty Souls is for the hopeless romantics and those who need a friend to comfort their late night thoughts. It’s a book made with love about falling in and out of love with yourself, and others. Enjoy over 60 poems from Jennae’s second edition of, Bright Minds Empty Souls.

Seeing the surge in self-pubbed lady authored poetry has been wonderful. There have always been poets who are women, but lately there seem to be more and more small collections rising to the surface like the richest cream. (How cheesy is that metaphor?)

This is good for two reasons:  Lady poets are getting recognition, which is amazing in itself; but also, they are getting people excited about poetry–people like me who were formerly not excited about poetry at ALL. We are seeking it out now, wishing for it, BEGGING for it. How cool is that?

One of these poetesses is Jennae Cecelia, and I just read her first collection, Bright Minds Empty Souls. Prepare to have your heart broken, folks. Prepare to sob. I read this collection slowly, only a few a day–but I could have easily devoured this in an hour or two. In fact, I wanted to. Only incredible self control kept me from doing so. I deciced, instead, to space it out and take my time.

I found so much of my old self Jennae’s pages. Bright Minds Empty Souls is a lesson in falling in love and having that love, in turn, fall away. It’s about how people change and become unrecognizable–both the people we love and ourselves. I wanted to rescue the girl in these poems, reach out and tell her that it will be ok, things get better in time. This collection was all about me seven years ago, but it is not about me now.

I have her next set, Uncaged Wallflower, on my Kindle and I think I’m going to jump right into that next. I’ll be interested to see if it has connection to this at all, if the girl in Jennae’s poems has grown from this experience at all.

I received a copy of this collection from the author for an unbiased review. This post does contain affiliate links.


Lesléa Newman: October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard

A masterful poetic exploration of the impact of Matthew Shepard’s murder on the world.

On the night of October 6, 1998, a gay twenty-one-year-old college student named Matthew Shepard was lured from a Wyoming bar by two young men, savagely beaten, tied to a remote fence, and left to die. Gay Awareness Week was beginning at the University of Wyoming, and the keynote speaker was Lesléa Newman, discussing her book Heather Has Two Mommies. Shaken, the author addressed the large audience that gathered, but she remained haunted by Matthew’s murder. October Mourning, a novel in verse, is her deeply felt response to the events of that tragic day. Using her poetic imagination, the author creates fictitious monologues from various points of view, including the fence Matthew was tied to, the stars that watched over him, the deer that kept him company, and Matthew himself. More than a decade later, this stunning cycle of sixty-eight poems serves as an illumination for readers too young to remember, and as a powerful, enduring tribute to Matthew Shepard’s life.

It’s official. This book has broken me. I knew when I picked it up that it would be sad but WOW I did not know that I would cry all the way through it.

I was 12 when Matthew Shepard was killed in a horrific hate crime in Wyoming. I vaguely remember it but until college it really didn’t register with me what had actually happened. I remember now, the anniversary being celebrated on campus and hearing the story. It was my first real understanding of what a hate crime was–outside of the history books, I mean. These things still happen? What kind of world did I live in? Back then the world seemed so big, but so much gentler. I never could have imagined a 2016 like we’ve had.

Newman took the stories and testimonies from the town of Laramie and turned them into a heart wrenching book of poetry. In it, she allows us to witness Matthew Shepard’s last night, and the following days of grief. She honors his memory by showing us just how bright his light was, and just how cruelly it was darkened.

A book like this is going to be hurtful to some people, so protect your heart if you need to. I can’t label this a MUST READ because it could be extremely triggering. But for those who can read it, read it as a way to bring awareness to the terrifying life of being LGBTQIA+ and being out. Hate crimes are an all too real thing in this world, and getting worse. We need this message shared until every LGBTQIA+ person is safe to live without fear of violence.

If you are LGBTQIA+ and need to talk to someone, please reach out to The Trevor Project. They are there for you 24/7. 866-488-7386.


This post contains affiliate links.

Kay Ryan: Say Uncle

Filled with wry logic and a magical, unpredictable musicality, Kay Ryan’s poems continue to generate excitement with their frequent appearances in The New Yorker and other leading periodicals. Say Uncle, Ryan’s fifth collection, is filled with the same hidden connections, the same slyness and almost gleeful detachment that has delighted readers of her earlier books. Compact, searching, and oddly beautiful, these poems, in the words of Dana Gioia, “take the shape of an idea clarifying itself.” “A poetry collection that marries wit and wisdom more brilliantly than any I know…. Poetry as statement and aphorism is rarely heartbreaking, but reading these poems I find myself continually ambushed by a fundamental sorrow, one that hides behind a surface that interweaves sound and sense in immaculately interesting ways.” — Jane Hirshfield, Common Boundary; “The first thing you notice about her poems is an elbow-to-the-ribs playfulness.” — Patricia Holt, San Francisco Chronicle.

Poetry collections are much harder for me to review. They are so much more subjective. Are they fiction? NonFiction? Sometimes they tell a story, but usually just snippets or pieces.

I’m not sure Say Uncle generated “excitement” in me, but I did like some of them. A few were worthy enough to be copied into my journal. Many, if not most, had some connection to nature, with an undertone of romance or heartbreak.

I’m interested enough to read more from Kay Ryan. I’m not gleeful, but perhaps…delighted?



This review contains affiliate links.

Mental Illness Awareness Week 2016 #MIAW

I saw this video on Facebook this morning, and shared it with the following post. I’ve been trying to think of what to post today, and I think this is exactly how I need to kick this week off. Thank you, Neil. You’re an inspiration to us all.

This poem will make you laugh. It will make you sob. You might think “Wow! This guy is NUTS!”

Neil Hilborn has a bunch of these kinds of videos out, I encourage you to go watch them. He’s brilliant. And devastatingly sick. People with mental illness struggle every day with the things Neil talks about in this poem. It may be humorous, but it isn’t a joke. This is real life.

This is Mental Illness Awareness Week. Take some time to listen to people’s stories, like Neil’s. Tell yours, if you have one. Do some research, donate to organizations like NAMI, if you can. They are fighting for bills in Congress to help us get better health care for the mentally ill.

But most of all, instead of thinking “Wow! This guy is NUTS!” Try and think, “Wow, this guy is so brave! He has been to the edge again and again and again and he still can see colors. He still has hope.”

Help us reduce the stigma behind mental illness. Replace it with hope, and love, and the courage to keep fighting.

Thank you.

If you need help, please reach out to one of the following numbers. Or, for people like myself who have trouble calling, there is also a suicide prevention chat now.


the princess saves herself in this one

when i had
no friends
i reached inside
my beloved
& sculpted some
out of
12 pt
times new roman.

— & it was almost good enough

Since joining Booklr, I have made many friends in the community. Many are aspiring writers, working on projects big and small, and in various stages of the process–creation, editing, publishing, etc. When we do see one of our own succeed, it pretty much looks like this:


Therefore, it’s no surprise that when one of the biggest Booklr’s of all, Amanda Lovelace, or LadyBookmad as most of us know her, we all fangirled the fuck out. HOLY SHIT SHE WROTE A BOOK! I MUST HAVE IT! It was the equivalent of Beyonce dropping Lemonade without warning.

…if Beyonce was part mermaid part Khaleesi part coffee addict…

My copy arrived today, and while normally I read poetry books one poem or page at a time, you absolutely cannot do that with the princess saves herself in this one. Don’t even try it. It is meant to be devoured–and really, it cannot be helped. Each poem leads into the next like a story that you just cannot keep up with because you are sobbing too hard.

Bring a paper bag. You might hyperventilate. No, I’m not exaggerating. It really IS that extreme.

Manda, you have reached inside my soul and tore it out. Every single page has gutted me. I feel like you are inside my head and and pulled out all the thoughts I’ve had for so long.

I didn’t expect to read this in an hour. I meant to spend so much more time on it. But once I started I just couldn’t contain myself and it was over before I even knew I had started. But that’s ok. Really. I’m ok. I promise. I’m just going to have to read it every single day from here on out.

If anyone asks me what to read in the next century, I will throw this at them.

Consider yourself warned.






You were holding something of mine,
Something in a closed, grey box,
And I couldn’t see what was inside until
I took it from you and
Laid it on the table.

The light from the window
Illuminated the box on the
Dark wood table–

I opened the lid.
I saw the child.
A baby, as long as the inside of the box–
Crisp, dead, like petrified wood.

I didn’t want to believe.

I didn’t want to take the lid all the way off
And I didn’t want to touch the baby
And I didn’t know how to look at her.
But I didn’t want to give her away.

I handed the baby to
My father
And knew the lid needed to stay on.
He mustn’t see it–
This burned child;
He would only turn away in disgust.

I didn’t want him to be ashamed
Of me,
So I took it back.
I took her away from him
Because he really didn’t want her anyway.

I blew a small patch of skin onto her face,
And another by her ear,
Near the jawbone.
And I covered her body with a soft blanket.
A grey-blue blanket.

I picked her up
Out of the box,
Inside the blanket,
So I didn’t have to touch her burned skin
And I held her
And I knew I didn’t want you to have her, either.

I knew you wouldn’t know what to do with her.
You made sure she remained burned.
I made sure you kept her like petrified wood.

Where else could she go?
If she wasn’t burned,
If you didn’t hold her,
If the lid didn’t stay on the box,
If you didn’t keep her burned body inside the box
Where could she go?

Would it be all right if I held her?
Would the two of us have to remain alone

What else,
My husbands,
My lovers,
What else can I give you
Besides custody of my burned self?

–Jessie Close, “MYSELF,” From Resilience:  Two Sisters and a Story of Mental Illness

PANIC! instead of sleeping

Last week I shared a journal entry written during a migraine. It was dark, and helped to illustrate a bit of depression’s tunnel of misery. But one thing I’ve never been able to do is write from within an episode anxiety. It’s just too intense and unfocused.

But then I read Sarah Gailey’s “Dissociation is Scary” Article on Boston Globe, and was blown away. I knew I’d have to try it. If you haven’t read Sarah’s post yet, you need go check it out. It’s incredible. Part poem, part essay–she illustrates just how terrifying a PTSD episode is.

Last night, my brain would not settle. I’d had a horrible day, and I was exhausted. But, of course, as soon as I hit the pillow, all that stress fired up.

I didn’t quite have what I consider a full panic attack, but it was definitely an episode. I didn’t sleep much at all last night. At some point, I wrote down the exact chaos that was running through my head.

I can’t I can’t I can’t
No. No. No.
Breathe 123456
I am dying.
That’s different than I want to die.
It’s different.
Can’t Breathe can’t breathe can’t breathe
Get upgetupgetupgetup
You piece of shit.
My chest hurts.
Take a pill. I should take a pill.
No. Bad. It’s bad. Addictive.
Why? Need it.
That’s why you have it. Take it.
No don’t waste it.
You may need it more later.
I can’t sleep. Need it. Can’t sleep can’t sleep.
It’s not WORKING.
Still can’t breathe. Stop thinking.
Eyes hurt.
Chest hurts.
Want to sleep.


Chasers of the Light

It’s no secret, really, that I’m in love with Tyler Knott Gregson. Or, at least I’m in love with his poetry.

I follow him on every social media platform he posts on, and for awhile, I was recording every Daily Haiku of Love in my journal. I’ve slacked off a bit, but I am wholly addicted to TKG.

I freely admit it.

Interestingly enough, I don’t really even LIKE romantic poetry. I usually find it too sappy. If I’m going to read poetry, I’d much rather it be on the topic of the mind–because, well…when don’t I like reading about the mind?

For some reason TKG just draws me in. I think he first grabbed my attention because I love the random papers he types on. That style appeals to my packrat nature. He also writes in one shots–sitting down at the typewriter and flinging out the unfiltered words as they come without editing them. How many people do that?

Chasers of the Light is TKG’s first collection of poetry, and was much awaited by his online fans. I remember picking it up as soon as it came out…and then it sadly sat on my shelf for way too long. I’m so glad I’ve finally worked through it. The images are gorgeous–the printer did a marvelous job of putting his poems in a bright glossy format so we could read them as they were originally typed. There were moments where I thought I could reach out and unfold a wrinkled paper, only to find it was a shadowed illusion.

I’m sure you’ve seen TKG online somewhere, even if you haven’t realized it. If you’re on Pinterest or Tumblr, I bet you’ve seen one of his images floating around. If you follow me anywhere, you definitely have seen me post one or two. Go pick up Chasers. Everyone needs a little love poetry now and then.



brown girl dreaming

#blacklivesmatter is everywhere these days, and seemingly everyone has an opinion about it. And the fight is ugly. If you had asked me even 2 years ago if I thought we would be living in the 60s again, I would have laughed and thought you meant fashion or the MidCentury Mod furniture design craze.

But nothing about this is funny. People aren’t just getting emotionally wounded, people are dying. And they aren’t just being killed by Joe Blow off the street, but by those sworn to protect us. No matter what side of the fence you’re on…that’s a very scary thing to think about.

As a white woman in America, I mostly keep my mouth shut. While I support #blacklivesmatter, this isn’t my time to speak. My voice is not the one that needs to be heard.


Adult Booklr chose Jacqueline Woodson’s brown girl dreaming for our August Book Club and it could not be more poignant. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about it, since it is a story written in poems instead of prose, but it ended up being incredibly beautiful. It is also a perfect book to release right now. It not only speaks to Black Culture, but it did a lot of good to me as well.

The rest of my review is written, obviously, from a white woman’s perspective. I have not been in the fight. I cannot understand what you are going through. I would love to hear your feelings on this beautiful book, and I hope you will share them with me.

brown girl dreaming is essentially Woodson’s memoir, written from the viewpoint of her as a child in the 1960s. Through her vivid poetry, she talks about growing up in Ohio, South Carolina, and New York, and the differences between prejudices and struggles in each location. She also lays out the foundation of learning to write, her family life, and just growing up as a whole.

Even though the words were spoken with a child’s voice, the wisdom in them was so pronounced. This was a child who saw the world through her pencil–every moment was a word waiting to be written. Her composition notebook was her tool to sort, file, organize the world around her and try to make sense of everything that was happening. For the reader, that notebook, in turn, helps us understand what is happening in our similar world today.

I couldn’t relate to everything she wrote. I grew up in a privileged home, with both parents, in the same house until the end of high school. I very much understand what people mean when they talk about White Privilege now. I can’t say I have never struggled…they are just different struggles.

There were, however, some poems that made my heart expand until I thought it was going to explode. Some made me want to weep. The ones about reading and writing, especially–not knowing how to use those gifts as a kid but just knowing they were there and she had to use them somehow.

Then there were the poems that really spoke to me on a human level. Those shook me. They are the reason I’m writing the review this way–because I really wasn’t sure how I was going to approach it. One of the last poems in the book was this one, called “how to listen #10”:





I think that is the most important thing as a white person in America right now, because we are privileged, whether we can see it or not. It’s a hard thing to admit sometimes–pride is a hard thing to let go of. But we just have to shut up and listen.


Buy Here:

Selected Canterbury Tales

There’s nothing quite like sitting in a pub with a big glass of beer and swapping stories with interesting company. It is one of my favorite ways to while away an evening, and we have a couple of really great places to do that here in Texas.

I am always drawn to those sort of scenes in books–it doesn’t matter where or when the characters are drinking. If there’s a story to be told, it is often told around booze.


The Canterbury Taleswhile difficult to readwere definitely amusing. Who doesn’t love a good drunken story? These would have been so much better to listen to though, and it makes me wonder if there’s any Old English bard groups who act them out. That would be neat to have as entertainment in a dark pub some night, or maybe in a place like Universal where fellow nerds flock.

I will say that I’m glad I only had 3 (plus the prologues) to get through. Maybe some day I’ll finish them all, but for now…it was good to keep it short and simple. I can mark it off the list and move on. Out of the three The Wife of Bath was my favorite.

Have you ready any of the Tales? Which was your fave?

Fulfills PopSugar #8:  A Funny Book

Fulfills Boxall #77