My thoughts on Afterlife by Melissa Jennings @TheBookishPoet




Genre: Poetry

Publisher: Createspace

Release Date: May Nineteenth 2017

Average Rating: 4.8/5🌟

Afterlife is a collection of poetry about catharsis, self-love, and self-revolution. Afterlife is a journey from the darkness to the light again, and again, and again.

Available on KU





Melissa Jennings lives with their cat, Dora, in the sometimes sunny but always vibrant city of Glasgow, in Scotland. Melissa is currently studying towards an MA in English Literature at the University of Glasgow. They are an avid reader and a writer of many genres – poetry is just the first step. Please use they/their/them in reference to the author in a review and/or comment.



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My Thoughts and Review


Forever grateful for Twitter first introducing me to Melissa Jennings. I followed the book reviews on their excellent blog, and had, until now, only read snippets of their writing.
Perhaps because I also read Dear Judas, the first of The Dead Letters series, by Melissa that I felt initially disappointed by Afterlife. Dear Judas is free flowing, whereas Afterlife has shorter poems. They are completely different animals though.
Melissa obviously takes great care of their craft, and technically their writing is superb. It’s dark, and visceral that gives the reader great imagery found in the elements, and on the themes of depression, relationships, the self. etc.
The concepts in the longer poems, which are so layered, explore its themes through questions. Judas, and Underworld, are referred to, and these make a reappearance in Melissa’s future works. This makes this feel organic, as if Melissa is flourishing from their writing, inspiring themselves.
I think one of the best things about poetry is when poets write exactly how we feel, putting their pain into words that resonate with ourselves, and you have that that’s it, exactly feeling. Melissa achieves this so well.
Afterlife is a delicious, full bodied, collection of poetry I keep returning to, turning over the pages, and I’m sure anybody, a fan of poetry or not, will overlook the genre, and find something in this collection to treasure.


Further Reading


An Interview with the author of Do Graves get Wi-Fi Kristie Shoemaker @samweird_

Very excited to share with you this interview. Kristie Shoemaker talks to us why it is important to talk about mental health, her inspirations, her book Do Graves get Wi-Fi, and what it was like working with Ghost City Press on that book.


1, First of all, tell us a little about you Kristie.

Well, my name is Kristie Shoemaker and I am painfully and not okay with being twenty-six. I’m a Scorpio with my moon in Gemini so I think that’s why I am always moody. I love plants and crystals, especially Rose Quartz which I wear around my neck every day. I’m also learning how to play guitar so I can either impress my dead boyfriend Elliott Smith or become the new Waxahatchee. My therapist once told me I was ‘the most self aware fucked up person’ she’s ever met, and I took that as a compliment.

2, Now tell us about your book Do Graves get WiFi, which was published by Ghost City Press in October 2017, and the process of writing it?

Words can’t even describe how much love and respect I have for Ghost City Press and Kevin. I remember messaging them on Twitter just to be a fan girl and then one thing led to another and I was showing Kevin my manuscript and we were ready to go! The book itself is a collection of poems, short stories and tweets. It covers probably the last four years of my life. It covers my angst living at home, falling for my first real relationship, moving to NYC, moving back home and how it all intertwines with my mental health. I think speaking about mental health issues is so important so that people can see that its way more common than they might think and to kind of try to understand things better. My mental health deteriorated greatly over the time writing the book (unrelated) but I thought it was important to document, and I have gotten back really nice thoughts from people who have read it saying that it’s very relatable.

3, Could you share a small piece of your writing, a line, or two, that you think best sums up your book?

Sure, one of my favorite poems in the book is

‘can you hear me buzzing in your ear as you fall asleep’


i am a lot of things crammed

in this stupid little body,

but stable is not one of them.
i want the self awareness of a fly.

to live a lifetime in a day and

never need to figure out why i am here.


4, What is it you have learnt about yourself from writing this book?

I’ve learned so much from writing this book. This book has been my baby for so long and has witnessed me go through a lot. I never thought I would be able to sit down and write words that I even enjoyed reading, let alone other people. I learned that I am capable of completing something and I learned that it is okay to be proud of yourself.

5, How did the opportunity to publish with Ghost City Press come about, and what have your experiences been of working with them?

As I stated earlier, publishing with Ghost City was a whirlwind. I had been sitting on my manuscript for probably almost a year (it went through a lot of edits in the meantime) and one night I was on Twitter and decided to message Ghost City just to tell them that I loved their work and to ask if they were accepting any submissions in the future. Kevin then asked if I was working on anything, and said that they were a fan of mine too, which made me blush so hard, and to send them my manuscript. Kevin looked it over, saw potential and then that was it! The experience has been incredible. I couldn’t have asked for a better press to help me get this book to where I wanted it to be. Kevin was and still is super supportive and I honestly feel so grateful they took a chance on me.


6, How does it feel to be able to say that you’re now the author of a book?

It honestly feels weirdly not weird. I thought I would feel super different, and when I first got my book, I did, but now it just feels like ‘okay, you accomplished a thing you never thought you would, what’s next?’ At the same time though, it feels great to have a tangible thing that I made filled with my weird words that people enjoy. I always felt weird saying I was a ‘writer’ as I’ve only been published in online literary magazines which a lot of people aren’t familiar with (which they should be!) so now it doesn’t feel so strange saying that I am a writer, especially since it says so on Google.

7, What are your inspirations, and the influences, on your writing?

My inspirations are very predictable and very dead. Sylvia Plath for one. Miranda July, but she’s not dead. Joan Didion as well, still alive. Elliott Smith is probably my biggest inspiration in my writing. His song writing style was so raw and pure because he wanted to share that part of himself with people, good and bad. He helped me learn that I can just sit and observe people, places and things and make up my own stories about it all. He showed me it is okay to write about the bad parts of yourself because they are still beautiful. He was a gentle spirit of which I can relate. My last inspiration is the book ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ because it is my favorite book of all time and I am too much like Charlie. Wait, I also need to shout out Ja Rule. I read his book, you should too.


8, What are your ambitions for 2018 (doesn’t have to be writing related, can be personal)

2018 is going to be my year, even though I say that every year. I hope to have another collection completed, I am already at 30 pages. I plan on submitting more poems to literary magazines instead of hoarding them. I also plan on getting stable, because without that I can’t really do much else.


Kristie Shoemaker is a twenty-six year old from Baltimore, Maryland. She once told a stranger who asked what she did for a living that she was ‘trying to become the 2018 version of Sylvia Plath’ and then immediately ran away. She’s had work published in various online lit mags such as Voicemail Poems, Fruita Pulp, Gesture, Electric Cereal, Show Your Skin, Be About It and more. She also had her first poetry pamphlet PLANTS WILL MAKE HER DANCE published via Varsity Goth Press, and her first full length collection DO GRAVES GET WIFI published via Ghost City Press. You can follow her ongoing mental breakdown on Twitter @samweird_

Book review. Pulling Words Poetry by Nicholas Trandahl.

With Pulling Words, a collection that simply and honestly showcases the drama and quietude of life, poet Nicholas Trandahl displays written snapshots of the world he has explored and observed. He escorts readers from his childhood in rural Virginia to his troubled time as a deployed soldier in the Middle East, and from the empty beauty of Wyoming to the quaint charm of Martha’s Vineyard.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

You can learn so much about perfecting your own craft from reading Trandahl’s poetry. His poems are subtle, so they don’t immediately scream to you what the poem is about. A few of the poems, which stood out to me in Pulling Words, were poem The Lengths We All Go about invisible mental wounds, or Belgium, which is a depiction of terrorism.

Love is more solid
than anything else –
more eternal
It will never
be broken into dust
by a wielder of terror

Pulling Words Nicholas Trandahl

The execution of the writer’s lines, and the words he chooses, are so right. This book hooks you in. It brings the outside into the insides of this book, from childhood, to his time as a soldier, and marriage, and fatherhood.

There are lines

that building is a bar now
one of many that balance out
the number of churches in town

Pulling Words Nicholas Trandahl

for example.

you would be forgiven for missing the meaning, the full weight of the words, because the poems are so multi layered, they tell a complete story. Lets call them onions. The influences, which Trandahl dedicates some of his poems to, (Tolstoy, Hemingway, etc.) make an impression on the writing too.

I was blown away by Pulling Words, Trandahl writes so well, and it is as if Trandahl has an old soul, like me too.

Contains affiliate links. Doesn’t cost you anything, helps me out if you click on ‘em. Thank you.

Poem. These Books Bide on Oak Shelves. Lisa Stice.

photo credit Jordan Lewington

These Books Bide on Oak Shelves. Lisa Stice.

Fyodor’s broke-down superman broods,

disturbed by the un-crime;

moldering on a filthy sofa

in the half light

of his paranoia.

And Hunter S T, who travels the whole

of a shelf, cannot die

there for the troubled thoughts,

dark like hallucinated wings,

cure themselves with sober pureness

within the clean pages –

ink and page rejuvenate

the roaming recidivist

of highways.

Kerouac strikes a note

so lonely through the lonely end

of the shelf, whereupon the Beats,

gin juice haunts, wandering,

wayward men on roads like gray

ghosts, and desolated

angels quest after answers to nothing.

Protective dustiness buries

those Tom Hardy texts of torture

that hold captive

all the deluded sinners of

malcontent –

Jude too obscure, maddening crowds,

whores and black-tongued kids, lost idols;

they shun the penance prayer.

Organized fictitious lives

fleshed that they may rise

from bindings that cannot bind them.

These books breathe in me.

Poem. When the Clouds Begin Crying. Bruce Kilarski.


When the Clouds Begin Crying. Bruce Kilarski.

When I was a boy

The cornfields would calm me,

The cat fish would swim circles

Whenever I roamed.

Down high dusty roads

I’d sing in my footsteps,

No more than a day dream

Away from my home.

My Pa planted colors

That would laugh in the sunlight,

And wait to wake up all of the

Shadows of dawn.

Mud pies and stick swords

Would rescue my summers,

From cottonwood castles

I’d right every wrong.

You may ask what has happened

To these worlds full of wonders,

When you visit the places

I so dearly loved.

Everyone has been buried

Under asphalt and ashes,

You can see the clouds crying

In the skies up above.

Do my children believe me

When I tell them these wonders?

Are they seeking the same beauty

In the things that they love?

The hope in my heart

Is they’ll remember the splendor

When the clouds begin crying

In the skies up above.

Read more of Bruce Kilarski’s poetry in his book Wandering Words.