Title: The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One
Author: Amanda Lovelace
Version: ARC – eBook
Page Count: 208
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Notable Notables: Free verse poetry, Feminism
Recommended Readers: Women especially, but men should read this, too, honestly
Thank you, NetGalley, for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
My second foray into contemporary free verse poetry went much better than my last, if my high rating is any indication. The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One is my first read from Amanda Lovelace, covering topics ranging from historic female oppression to the 2017 Women’s March.
And I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
At first I didn’t know what to expect and my hopes weren’t super high, but both Lovelace’s dedication and trigger warning at the very beginning made me sit up straighter. This is a woman who both knows and respects her audience, and the more I read, the more I realized that, yeah, I am getting feminist poetry from a female perspective. How novel! (You may think I’m being facetious, but I’ve had a lot of Male Feminism™ thrown in my face lately that has not been great, so this was a breath of fresh air in a room full of Axe body spray.)
Unlike my last poetry book, this one had structure. Glorious, beautiful structure. Not just with the poems themselves (and many of them were structured in interesting and unique ways) but the book as a whole. Lovelace splits her poetry into four parts: the trial, the burning, the firestorm, and the ashes, and within each of these parts, her poems build in ferocity, passion, and content. You really feel like each part is taking you somewhere, building you towards something.
With symbolism largely revolving around witch burnings, imagery of fire and ashes and the rage they come from abound, but I never got bored with it. It never devolves into the raging feminist stereotype for me. So much of it is about women taking back our power, expressing our anger, getting back at our oppressors, but the endgame is one of action, dedicated to leaving the world better than when we found it. There’s a lot of healing taking place here:
the tricky thing
it stays soft
even while it
– we can’t lose our empathy.
That isn’t to say the poems pull their punches. Many deal with topics such as sexual assault, insecurity, eating disorders, fear, powerlessness, violence, and the venom that comes with them. They call out the patriarchy, the laughable “Not All Men” saying, and the 2016 election. All the while, Lovelace pays tribute to women, both fictional and real, by name and by identity, regardless of race, religion, or gender. There are poems dedicated to Eliza Hamilton, Hillary Clinton, Diana Prince, Emma Sulkowicz, and many more that had me sitting there, stunned, when I realized who and what they were about.
So would I call this form of free verse real poetry? Well, poetry is about making you feel something. It’s about making you think and keeping you company. There were so many times I was nodding along, going, “Yeah. Yeah! YEAH!” in my head because the words and lessons in Lovelace’s work were so relevant to me. I have lived so much of this female experience, and I have seen other women go through the more terrible consequences that come with the crime of being born women.
I felt angry and heartbroken at times, but also hopeful and empowered AF. I felt called to action, both for societal change and for personal change, namely to always treat other women like family because they are. We’re all going through a lot of the same stuff and our differences can only enrich and teach us, not divide us. We are united in more ways than those who seek to oppress us want us to know.
they don’t want us
they don’t want us
do they even want us
outside of their
– i am neither your paper doll, nor your blow-up doll.
Is this real poetry? Damn right, it is.