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heaven or this

What: Heaven or This by Topaz Winters

Who: N/A

When: June 13th 2016

How: Purchased. (Get it for free here)

Heaven or This: a collection of love letters in poem form. A story of a girl who loves girls, and the beauty in that, the terror, the yearning and the warning, the endless confusion and innate peace, at once shatteringly delicate and softly visceral.

Heaven or This: a fearless, electric manifesto. A pastel incarnation of grace. The story of a girl who loves girls so deeply that it feels like loving doves or knives.

5cats2Topaz is an incredible writer, and I’m so happy to be able to review a book of hers so that you can discover her (or rediscover her) because her way with words is gorgeous. I’m going to give some thoughts on each of the beautiful pieces in Heaven or This.

girlhood

I have never seen anything so beautiful as you
pretending not to be beautiful

I love it when a line speaks to me and even though it is nestled between other lovely lines and passages and phrases, it just has that extra ness that makes my eyes go: ah, and my heart go: oh. The quote above is one of those lines. I absolutely adore it endlessly. I think there is such a beauty to people and things that do not know they are beautiful. And even though this line isn’t that exactly, it still made me think of it, and gave such gorgeous imagery of a girl smiling, knowing that she is beautiful but pretending not to know and not caring that she is.

The rest of Girlhood is equally as lovely. There’s a ferocity to the words that defy the constructs and expectations that society places on girls and girls growing up. Girlhood tore these down and scattered them at its feet in a celebration of ferocious love.

cherry blossoms

there is no story where two girls
get a happy ending. she tells me fine, we’ll write it ourselves,

I have read Cherry Blossoms several times, and I never tire of it. I never tire of how beautifully it encapsulates how love can be tarnished by what others say, and think, and do, but that it can also bloom in spite of that. There is a sort of melancholy to this piece, hidden behind the beauty of it, that screams stop judging. It screams let us be who we are and be who we want and love who we love. That is why I love Cherry Blossoms.

legend

and when there are no gods still alive enough to smite—
i fall in love with the way
she unfurls into light.

Legend is somewhat whimsical, and somewhat painful. For me, it tells the story of girls in love who love each other despite what they have been taught to believe and trust, who love each other violently and passionately, but also softly and kindly. Legend is the kind of poem that makes you think of girls in love in hiding in plain sight.

the rememberings

Instead, here is a story of girls who survive.

This is one of my favourite pieces in Heaven or This. There is such a reality to The Rememberings – more so than the others, which are so surreal. It speaks of the unhappy endings that girls who love girls receive. In life, the movies, TV shows, books. There is so much sadness and ending when girls love girls, and The Rememberings says: forget what you have seen and read about the tragedy of girls who love girls. The Rememberings says: think of the happily ever afters and all the possible endings you haven’t seen and read about the stories of girls who love girls.

april rainsong

you say i love you only when apologising
or forgiving, and i cannot tell
whether this is harmless or the truth.

Even though the words used in April Rainsong are soft like feather downing, there is an inherent sadness in the whole piece. I feel like this is about girls in love who are hurtling toward each other and crashing and hurting, but are drifting next to each other and loving and comforting. There are two distinct sides to April Rainsong, and both of them are incredibly emotional.

love in goddess-speak

I am in love with a girl who has light skin
and glass-stained eyes, and this is just
another way of pronouncing star-crossed,

Ah, Love in Goddess-Speak is easily one of my favourite pieces in Heaven or This. I feel like it tells such a personal story, of a girl confronted by family and tradition, but willing to defy it for love. The fact that it is told in four parts feels like taking a journey with the this girl who is not known and knowable all in one. Who feels incredibly enigmatic.

portrait of coven/portrait of burning

Teenage girls in love—
we’re curses. Black cats. Darkness too alive
to call burning.

I love how Portrait of Coven/Portrait of Burning could so easily be a metaphoric piece, but could also so easily be an entirely magical piece. I like to see it as the latter, because I am imagining two dark and magic girls who are in love, and burning down the earth to be with one another and to discover everything the world has to give them.

prayer of the girl who falls in love with girls

(and she whispers your name and it feels like belonging)

Ah, this piece is simply divine. There is such a sleepy morning appreciation to the whole thing. This is a quiet moment of loving someone, when they aren’t trying to be loved, and perhaps don’t even know the love that they are invoking in someone else. This sweet and nostalgic poem is easily one of my all time favourites.

aquiver

This moment is the reason why
the sun sinks below horizon, blushing all over.

Aquiver reminds of of unrequited love, of a love that has yet to be spoken. Which is quite odd, considering that the two girls in Aquiver are in love together. But there is just the feeling of ‘I love this girl in hidden meanings’, and I think maybe that can be true if someone loves us back, anyway. That there are hidden depths to everything, including love, and that makes it something special to each and every person.

© 2016, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.

trigger warning: some pieces explore homophobic themes (not overt)

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Posted on: June 28, 2016 • By: Chiara

13 Responses to Review: Heaven or This by Topaz Winters

  1. Rebecca @ Reading Wishes says:

    This sounds beautiful! Topaz Winters rings a bell, is she a blogger? I feel like I’ve seen her in the comments? Either way, I must check this out! I’ve been adding more poetry to my TBR of late and this sounds like it delivers beautifully.

    • Hello, dear Rebecca! Thank you so much for your kind words on Heaven or This – I do hope that you end up enjoying it, and I cannot wait to hear your thoughts.

      I am indeed a blogger at Six Impossible Things, where I share essays & poems of softness & savagery. I am infinitely delighted to meet you. <3

    • Chiara says:

      It is! And yes, Topaz is a blogger who frequents my comment section :D I hope you do read this, lovely! It is gorgeous. (And free!)

  2. Ah, this is such a wonderful review of an equally wonderful chapbook! I’m so glad you loved it as well — things have not been as good for me lately, but Heaven or This has been lifting me up. Many of the poems resonated strongly with me, and I was also reminded of how much I love poetry. *nods*

    • Chiara says:

      Thank you so much, Eve! <3 I am so very glad that this poetry book came at such a good time for you. I think that is what makes books so special, most of the time. I need to read more poetry - it is so often very divine.

  3. Darling Chiara, every single line of this review makes my heart sing. Thank you so much for your kindness and endless support of my work – perhaps I say it often, but it is more and more sincere every time. That you enjoyed Heaven or This makes me more delighted than you could possibly know. I hope that you savour these words in time to come – for I know I will be doing the same with yours. xx

    • Chiara says:

      I am so very glad that you enjoyed reading my thoughts on your beautiful book, lovely <3 I cannot wait to support your work in the coming days and weeks and months and years. I will always champion it! Having read through Heaven or This twice already, I know they will <3

  4. You’ve covered each and every one of these poems so beautifully! It sounds like they each capture the heart of love and different types of love so incredibly well and in a melancholic way. Your review of the book is just as gorgeous! Thanks for sharing, lovely.

    • Chiara says:

      Thank you, lovely! <3 Every piece in this book is utterly lovely, and if you are ever in the mood for poetry, I recommend it infinitely! I am so glad you enjoyed my review <3

  5. Valerie says:

    All of the quotes are beautiful and gorgeous. Straight onto the TBR it goes. I also don’t know where to start with poetry, and I have been searching for something very similar to this (like contemporary). The fact that the love letters are from a girl to another girl is just a huge, added plus. :)

    This is one lovely post Chiara! <3

    • Chiara says:

      Yay! I really hope you love it when you read it, Valerie :D I think Heaven or This would be such a lovely place for you to begin your poetry journey!

      Thank you, lovely <3

  6. Romi says:

    This review is just so beautiful and thoughtful and there’s another word I’m looking for that I just cannot grasp, but it’s wonderful, for every single moment. You’ve written each word with passion and love and it shines through, and I really think it’s lovely that you’ve reviewed every poem in this collection and shared some of the oh my gosh gorgeous quotes from each of them; I haven’t ever read a review of a book of poetry before, I don’t think, but I wouldn’t normally expect to see each poem reviewed and I just loved it.

    I’m currently (and slowly, due to no reason at all) reading this and even though I’ve only read the first three poems, I think, I recognised your words and agreed with them so much. It isn’t often that I have actually read or am currently reading something you’ve reviewd, so this may well be a first, but I really loved the way you got to the depth of the stories, like you said Aquiver made you think of one thing (unrequited love) even if on the surface that isn’t what it’s about.

    You did a really marvellous job with this review/post. I loved reading your thoughts and this made me want to hurry up and finish Heaven or This. xx

    • Chiara says:

      Thank you so much, dear <3 I am so very glad that you enjoyed reading my thoughts on these poems. I wasn't sure how to share adequate thoughts on the poems as a collection, as I had such varying feelings on each of them which is why I went with reviewing each and every one.

      I don't think this has ever happened before, either! We always seem to read different books, or the same books at very different times. So this is quite an event!

      I hope you enjoy the remaining pieces you've got to read, and I am so glad you liked this review <3

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