You Better Be Lightning by Andrea Gibson
Published by Button Poetry, 2021
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
I’ve been meaning to try Gibson’s work for ages. Having been lucky enough to get hold of their newest collection, I am now all the more determined to explore their back catalogue at length.
The poems found here are very candid, focussing primarily on the themes of gender identity, queerness, love, loss, and healing. Gibson’s style is heavily narrative driven, informed by their own experiences and often delivering sucker-punch lines that are all the more poignant for the simplicity of their expression.
Though they never shy away from the pain and sadness life can throw at you (there is also excellent commentary on life with chronic pain, for example), there is such inherent warmth and kindness to Gibson’s voice; the wonderful flow and deceptive accessibility a welcome hand to guide us through the darkness.
There were several stand-out pieces (“See This Through”, “The Last Hours”, “Homesick”, and “Queer Youth Are Five Times More Likely to Die by Suicide” will stick with me) but there’s not a single dud throughout the entire collection – generous as it is in length.
Sharp, observant, and achingly tender, I am now very much a fan.
Thank you to the publisher for a free advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong
Published by Jonathan Cape, 2017
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
This collection is highly revered and it’s easy to understand why. Though it didn’t quite floor me like I’d hoped (high expectations were definitely a factor here), I did greatly admire Vuong’s use of beautiful language to explore his themes in frank detail. This includes powerful commentary on war, immigration, identity, love, and sexuality.
It’s the kind of collection that shone in fragments for me: specific lines possessing greater lasting power than any whole poem. Still, I can see myself coming back to this one in the future, and I’d certainly read more of Vuong’s poetry.