One of the Read Harder tasks from 2023 was to read a book of poetry by a BIPOC or queer author and another was to read a book by an author who was geographically close to you. Amanda Lovelace, author of The Princess Saves Herself in This One is both queer and lives in New Jersey so I had put her second book The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One on my to read for the year. And then 2023 just did not cooperate even a little bit. So here we are in the first two weeks of 2024 and I’ve finally checked this one off the list. It only took me an hour of reading time. Such was 2023.
I read The Princess Saves Herself in 2019 and it was one of the works of poetry that really worked for me so I had high hopes heading into The Witch Doesn’t Burn and I’m pleased to report that those expectations were met. The Witch Doesn’t Burn has the following content warning at its beginning, and it does a fantastic job of level-setting. “this book contains sensitive material relating to: child abuse, intimate partner abuse, sexual assault, eating disorders, trauma, death, murder, violence, fire, menstruation, transphobia & more. remember to practice self-care before, during, & after reading.”
The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One is a story in three acts, each poem building naturally on the ones before, filling out an idea, a notion, but not locked into a specific narrative. The writing is often sparse, but in a beautiful way that helps you sink into your own reactions. There were so many lines and phrases that I loved, particularly as Lovelace defiantly unleashed all the feelings women are told we must repress – resentment, anger, indignation, exasperation, and the list goes on. While some of the poems feel like liquid rage unbottled, others land like a healing balm or gentle encouragement. But this is a book about letting the emotions out.
The third in the series is The Mermaid’s Voice Returns in This One and I’m cautiously optimistic about getting to it in 2024.