The Witch Doesn’t Burn in this One is a collection of poetry I had been looking forward to for weeks. I don’t remember exactly when I first heard it was coming; but the day I saw it on Twitter, I told my best friend and we started a countdown. We share a unique bond over poetry and especially Amanda Lovelace’s first collection, The Princess Saves Herself in this One. I knew I had to read this next one, and I knew I had to write about it.
This wasn’t a book I wanted to pass around widely though; I wanted to share it in a closed circle of two. Everyone in my poetry circle jumps on the bandwagon when I make them, but only my best and I share poetry at all times. We’d been writing notes for each other in books since we met. However, because they were the same books that were passed around the normal circle, we didn’t get all that personal. Writing in a book solely for each other, was the logical next step. She’d write in a copy that I’d end up keeping, and I’d write in the copy she’d have in the end.
This post was supposed to be something different; something more personal, less essay format. Since this would be a different experience, I wanted to treat is as such. I knew I’d need a few days to experience and live out this one. Divine inspiration hit, and I thought of a diary-type write up since I was taking it day by day anyway. However, the divine entity that sends ideas to writers sent me this idea two days after I started reading. So, this is a diary-esque kind of personal journal, rambling thing. It is based on a few days of reading, but just the most important feeling or poem from that day.
Today my book came out. I rushed to Barnes and Noble right after work, excited as hell.
They didn’t have it. (Oh, the horror!)
I thought I was going to lose my damn mind. However, Target had an exclusive edition of the book with a red cover. Now, the B&N version had a white cover, so this was a blessing in disguise, really. White and I do not get along *See white pants with melted cherry Chapstick stain, white t-shirt with intense, yellow armpit sweat stains, the list goes on.
I power walked into Target with the hope that they’d still have copies. They did; Target never lets me down. I was so excited that I bought new earrings, a dress, a bottle of wine, and some cinnamon rolls… because I know how to celebrate. Also, Target, AmIright??
I went home to read (and eat the cinnamon rolls and drink the wine.) I had chills from the start. Lovelace is so good at writing angry, punch-you-in-the-gut poems. One of the first pages said, “No mercy ahead” and I was ready to march and yell and protest and punch my pillow as a stand-in for the patriarchy! The first few pages had images of conjuring up fire and dancing in the ashes of those you would come to destroy. That was just the intro. It only got better from there. The first section, and the only one I read this first day, was full of fire in so many ways; witches being burned but also burning things themselves, wildfires, making fire out of thin air.
There were also poems on the pure magic of women and Lovelace carried the fire and witch imagery here too. Our very existence is magical and we’ve got power all our own. But there is danger here too. In the drugged drinks, bad men who try to make homes out of our bodies, and the misogynistic mindset that permeates so much of life. This world can sometimes punish us, for being women and for trying to take our half of the sky. These angry pages filled me with hope, because they’re not just angry, they are a call to action. A call to help your sisters achieve. This isn’t a plain man-hating, angry, burn-the-whole-place-down call to action. This is a you’re-strong-and-I-believe-in-you call to action. You’re magic and you can do this.
I remember us being in somewhat of a tiff on my second day of reading. Knowing that things were rocky, I made sure to choose my words carefully. It needed to be clear that they were chosen with love, regardless of what resentment or argument was going on at the time. I still wanted this book to be a testament to our friendship and to my love and fierce support. Tears fell multiple times because I just didn’t want to be fighting and I needed to coherently express my support and adoration in this book even if my actions in real life were shitty.
One poem that I knew we’d both connect with and one that did actually make me stop reading to have a mini cry fest was the two-page spread that just said, “you have to eat” over and over again. I turned to these pages and immediately burst into soft tears at a Starbucks. I had to continue that poem the next day. I was done.
I am a stress eater, normally.
Bad day? Burger!
Lots to do at work? Drive thru chicken!
Can’t sleep? Let’s eat four pieces of toast!
BUT – when I am sad, that’s a different stress entirely, and I do not eat. I throw up when I’m too sad/anxious. Eating during this state is a sure-fire way to taste all that food again on its way up. Last year, I went through a time which had a lot of anxious vomit involved. So much so, that it was necessary for me to get anxiety medicine and medicine to physically stop me throwing up. There was a week-long period where I threw up every single day. The month or so leading up to this week, I ate nothing but crackers and vitamin water. I was a skeleton.
And I loved it.
The time I’ve been most proud of my body was during this period. Nothing shook on me, there was no extra flab. All my clothes fell off. I had to use a binder clip once to keep my shorts up, a binder clip!! That’s a truly messed up mindset; to be proud of a body that is the kind of skinny you can only attain by being sick. This poem took my right back to how proud I was to be so sick and unwell. And it made me very, very sad.
My best went through a period of weight loss as well from lack of eating. There was stress there, vomiting, general unhealthiness, and some mindset struggles. I reminded her on this page that we can’t go back there. This was a hugely important poem for me and for me to share with her.
We both eat now. Quite a lot, actually! We are much happier to be nourishing our bodies and have some more weight on us. I think there’s sadly something extremely comforting about controlling food; not eating, eating too much. I have always thought I’d rather feel hunger pains than feel the big sad. The deep hole in my gut that comes with anxiety or depression. Hunger feels much better. But this poem reminded me that’s not healthy. It’s like it was written for me.
“Eat, girl… eat.”
To this day, if I’m stressed my best will text, “Make sure you eat, please.” ❤
Another poem that spoke to our specific friendship was one about having embers in your hands waiting for the opportunity to ignite so you can create. My best is insanely, artistically talented. She can paint, she can write, she can sculpt, she can kind of make anything beautiful. But she doesn’t see it. I want to read this poem to her every single day and make her see her hands as the artistic tools I know them to be.
The last poem that was so uniquely us was one about loving someone when they can’t love themselves. It’s about being there to build up the people in your life when they are too tired or too worn-down to build themselves. The poem says to drink the elixir (of light and love) from the cupped palms of friends. We have this saying, “Let me love you!” that we always say when one of us isn’t accepting the praise the other is giving. This praise usually comes at a time when one of us is low. Having a sad day, feeling uninspired, unhappy, unworthy. The other will shower praise and love to help pull the other out of the dark. We always say things like, “I will love you when you cannot love yourself and you can take all my love and adoration of you and use it until you have your own back. Let me love you when you can’t love yourself” This poem was us in a nutshell.
There was a lot of self-imposed pressure to make this book exceedingly meaningful. So much so that I may have forced words to some extent. That’s not to say all my words and feelings were not genuine; I think they were. They may have just not come about in the most organic way. I expected the book to be so very magical and life-changing, that I put pressure on myself to make my words to measure up. There was so much focus on giving it to someone else, that I think some of it was lost on me. I definitely felt things; I swelled with anger, indignation, pride, sadness, and shame depending on the poem and depending on the day. But since I had someone else in mind, I failed to recognize myself in the words every time. I kind of feel like none of my words for her were good enough, and I can’t really recall more than what I’ve put down already as it relates to me and my connection to the book.
I’m glad I read it for someone else though; I still really love the idea of giving the poems and giving personal words away. In the future, I’ll read for myself first. Maybe by absorbing the words more completely, I can better articulate how the poem made me feel and made me think of someone else at the same time. I just missed that first step this time around. I love Amanda Lovelace, I will read anything she writes. She’s inspiring and creative and hopeful, despite the anger in her words. I did get a lot out of this book. I hope my best does too. I think I simply may have missed the mark by writing in it for her as I was reading it for me.
**Stay tuned for the update on when I receive my book with words from my best. Maybe reading the copy with her words will bring it all full circle.