A Book Review for “Mixtapes” by Rachael Crosbie a review by Mashaal Sajid

MIXTAPES is Rachael Crosbie’s Poetry Chapbook, published by ELJ Editions released this April. Rachael is the EIC and Founder of The Winnow Magazine, a poetry reader for Persephone’s Daughter and Poetry Editor of Dollar Store Magazine. They have a MS in publishing from NYU and you can find their Poems in publications such as Re-Side, Cobra Milk, Lucky Pierre Zine, Wrongdoing Magazine and others.

I read Mixtapes five times before I wrote this Review(it only got better with every reading). While reading this chapbook I was going through a spell of dissociation following some trauma and in this book I found a kindred spirit, the poetic voice relatable in it’s stance of detached and distant reflection/recollection of the past. Moreover the format and mixtape concept accompanied by the spotify playlist is very nostalgia inducing and had me reminiscing about my father’s collection of cassettes with ghazals on them and our Sony radio cassette corder.

Mixtapes feels like sleep walking through a corridor of interconnected memories where nightmares bleed into reality, the Poems exist in a liminal atmosphere where dream fragments and memoria are deconstructed and reconstructed into reveries bordering on the frayed edges of consciousness. The perception of space and time is influenced by the speaker’s emotions and experiences at any given point. Like a Mixtape the chapbook has sides 1 and 2, each with eleven poems, which share the same core themes but are distinct in form and tone. All the Poems on this collection come together in beautiful harmony and compliment each other.

Side 1: You In Absentia views a past self in retrospect through a fogged pane of nostalgia and grief, memories appear distant and hazy and are laden with nightmares of loss and trauma like:
“when you swear ghosts appear to / almost warm / austere of unknowns.”
Abrupt enjambments, altered repetitions and virgule marked line-breaks lend the poems in Absentia the ability to haunt and shock at once, the reader is drawn in with visceral imagery and find themself face to face with personal ghosts for example:
“you were afraid / of the body manifesting you and you / manifesting in the body. / fevered fits shifted sweat to sickness / trapping you in this loop / where you woke up confused, choking / on a room cleaved by white.”

Dreams In Absentia and Nostalgia In Absentia are especially remarkable Poems in Side 1. The former is about coping with childhood trauma and abuse, one of the best Poems I’ve read about this topic, the language used is vivid, brutal and uncompromising such as “clawed out medieval and raw / like when you cut / yourself with mirrors / broken by hand, broken for / modern blood letting” and “you were handled / by older others who glitched / with predatory magic / who made you beg / to physically dissociate”. Nostalgia In Absentia explores childhood, gender and trauma, I adore the language used in this poem accompanied by the striking visual imagery: “lying in a hammock, a loose / womb of yarn and air, / safe where you played / pretend, tethered to warmth,” and “double-vision pirouetting like bodies animated by the visceral blaze of night”

In Side 2: The B-Sides the speaker is present and a confessional “I” is employed. The form and tone waver and display a wide range from prose poems, free verse, couplets and experimental to saudade while the themes are more focused on love, body, relationships and loss. Lipstick and Fish a poem about American girlhood, gender and body is one of my favourites on side 2, saturated in pink this poem perfectly captures the atmosphere of fear, confusion and curiosity which surrounds puberty, rediscovering ones changing body and sex. “But I was not a woman. A girl as she was. My body sprouted sparse hairs and raw pink buds.”

Some honourable mentions, poems that had me feeling nostalgic, teary eyed and longing for lost moments include “Looking For Directions In Two Parts”, “Saudade For When You’re Gone”, and “Apologia In Absentia”. Rachael is a master of pulling on your heartstrings and invoking nostalgia and yearning like a magician, let the following lines from Saudade be evidence:
“I searched everywhere for quarters,
To call you from the laundromat. You never answered.
So, I drove to the white sands,
Wind howling with specks of cold water.”

And consider these lines from Looking For Directions in Two Parts:
“a phantom touch from the last night slipping from your hands.
A glimpse of white rabbit twitched
in the background, in the field behind you”

Rachael has a pulse on the poetry and doesn’t shy away from displaying the range of their craft with imagery like “low pulse of wind textured by sleet”, “lichen grows in patches near ribbons of water”, “rabbits that won’t run, wolves that won’t chase. Pure halcyon, grace.”, “the day shed / in swathes of peplum purple dark, threads” and “a dying sun haloed copper on my hair”.
In Mixtapes you see their own uniquely personal take on themes of memory, dream, relationships, loss and trauma. Mixtapes is a perfect read for a dive in the past, while handling a breakup or if you want to experience heartache and longing amplified tenfold by gutting imagery that ushers in a dream-like state.

Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Mashaal Sajid

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Rachael Crosbie

A Book Review of Pen Muses a compilation of 60 poems by Sarika Jaswani (reviewed by Mashaal Sajid)

Pen Muses

Pen Muses is a compilation of 60 Poems by Poet and Artist Sarika Jaswani. Known for her ArtInCrochet nonprofit and fundraising for various underprivileged schools around the world,
Sarika is a certified crochet instructor and art tutor. She has authored original children’s stories in the series ‘Life is Magical’ to go with crochet toys in her shop. Her books are available at
Kindle and BN.com. Sarika’s poetry has been published on The “Tide Rises, The Tide Falls”, “A Cornered Gurl Publication”, and “Fevers Of The Mind

This is an emotive and relatable collection of poems on a diverse range of topics from love, grief, heartache, and sorrow to desire, hope and personal reflections on the complexities of time
and human emotions. Abound with imagery from the natural world and an empathetic poetic voice, these Poems have a soothing effect on the reader. They create a meditative and calm atmosphere replete with internal reflections and familiar emotions expressed in exquisite

Some of my favorites were Aroha, An Empty Page, Limoncello Elder, Sculpture and Seven. Aroha is about separateness in relationships and love thriving despite superficial barriers.

I shun the stigma of aging suns”

An Empty Page is about the creative process, this poem has a beautiful visual pattern that heightens/elevates the poems liquid atmosphere composed of language like: barbel, wet weight
and currency of liquid. Limoncello is a melodramatic poem about the passing of time, love and loss. Sculpture is ripe with desire and desperation and uses passionate language to express
these emotions:

“Forge me in your love
My engraver-
I’ll be a bearer of your nameSeven is another love poem, this one is on a lighter and happy note and sings the lover’s praise.

The Collection consists of a few ekphrastic poems paired with alluring photography such as Skyline, Dark Moon and The Woods. Quite a few verses captured my heart with their poignant
visual imagery of nature and others with their poetic brilliance, some of these phrases were:
“Dog-eared leaf/ with your initials/ stays mint in my elegy”, “In each vein fold of pigeon-heart petal of Chrysanthemum”, “I wear your sepia blemish/ at each vex of moon”, “allium of her life
stems in gospel truths”, “I fill each grain/ in spores of your spell”, and “I want to steal your sun/
off orchards/ be an apple to/ bathe in your sunshine”.

I was grateful for the opportunity to read and review Pen Muses. The collection has a lot of potential, the love poems are heartwarming and accessible and would make a beautiful gift to
share with someone you love or want to express your feelings to. The collection makes a light-hearted read you can enjoy and delve in at leisure, it leaves you contemplating the
bittersweetness of love, time and memory.

Brief Bio:
Crochet artist, art tutor, writer of children's stories, philanthropist. Poet. Dabbles in poetry, reading,
and writing. Art lover. Bird lover. Dreamer and blogger. Poetry published at The Tide Rises, The
Tide Falls, also on Medium @ACG.

Sarika Jaswani, under the pen name ArtInCrochet, is a decade old non-profit donating hats and
scarves to orphanages and shelter homes. She has done fundraising from 2016 through sales of handmade crochet items for kids in need. She is a certified crochet instructor from The American Craft Council. She has conducted classes at Alpharetta Main Branch Library, Art Center Alpharetta, and Michael's Community Classroom Alpharetta Georgia. Funds raised through her teaching crochet art are used to donate books to various underprivileged schools around the
world. She has authored original children's stories in the series 'Life is Magical' to go with the crochet toys in her shop. Her books are available as Nook Books on BN.com and Amazon
Kindle. Her Etsy page: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ArtInCrochet
Sarika is a passionate poetry reader and writer. Her Poetry is published on:
The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls.
Online Literary Journal
Featured in Fever Of The Mind
A Cornered Gurl publication on Medium

Wolfpack Contributor: Sarika Jaswani

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Sarika Jaswani (artincrochet)

Bio: Doctor by profession. I'm a Crochet Artist, Art Tutor Writer of Children's Stories, Philanthropist. Poet. Published. Passionately reads & writes poetry. Art Lover. Bird lover. Dreamer and blogger.Published on 'Tide Rises Tide Falls' & on Medium with A Cornered Gurl @ACG @Scittura 

Fevers of the Mind Poetry on WordPress
Silver Birch Press
The Organic Poets 
A frequent VSS prompt writer on twitter
My poems run on theme of love, reflection and philosophy of life.

ArtinCrochet on Twitter @sarikajaswani

Book Review by Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Mashaal Sajid

“What The Owl Taught Me” by Annest Gwilym a poetry book review by Mashaal Sajid

What the Owl Taught Me by Annest Gwilym | North of Oxford
What The Owl Taught Me

“What the owl taught me” is Annest Gwilym’s first full-length Poetry collection published by Lapwing Publications in 2020. Having read Annest’s debut poetry chapbook “Surfacing”, I looked forward to delve into this collection and my anticipation was rewarded. A bestiary of sorts,  “what the owl taught me” is a perfect read for anyone who approaches themes of nature and wildlife with adoration and cautious reverence. 

Annest depicts the spirit of living creatures from mythological birds, sea urchin and moths to endangered critters in these 40 Poems. The collection is hallmarked with quaint verses giving human characteristics to animals like: “scuffle for a crumb on the street, sinewy legs dance and pounce”, “upright head, a Roman nose”, “shimmied and played chase with the ladies”, “underwater acrobats”, “as your mocking laughter ripples”, “he keeps vigil, forages, shovels snow”, and “in his robe of sun he cartwheels”.

Perhaps due to my biased fascination with moths, but mostly because of these opening lines “I rode through the liquid night, as a melon-slice moon crested a bank of cloud”, Last Night I Became An Emperor Moth is my favourite poem in this collection. It takes you on a first person view of a moth’s night journey, flying over moor and sea, to end in a desire filled moment with the anticipation of some obscure ferine mating ritual: “There to wait for my lover; my musk strong, / it will draw him from miles. He will come, / wings taut with blood. Antennae fresh as ferns.”

Some poems are heavy with environmentalist concern and themes of extinction. Golden child is a concrete poem about the endangered Raja Undulate sting ray, the speaker describes the beauty of the creature calling her ‘beauty queen of rays’, the voice breaks to distressed prayer towards the end: “Golden child, I pray you don’t go the way of the golden toad”. “The Last Woolly Mammoth” paints a macabre and mournful picture of the extinction of the last Woolly mammoths on Wrangel Island. Tinted with grief and loss, it features a mother child duo, the child after witnessing his mother’s death surrenders to loneliness and demise. The poem holds bitter lessons about climate crisis and environmentally harmful practices : “People have taken bones and tusks, of his dead tribe, wear his family’s coats on their backs.”

What The Owl Taught Me contains many brilliant Poems, among these, the ones that stood out to me the most are: “Last Night I Became An Emperor Moth”, “Domesticated”, “Barn Owl”, “The Nightmare Bird”, “The Moon Hedgehog”, and “Wasp’s Nest”. Their language is fresh and alive with poignant oft eerie imagery like “The ugly planet hangs like a mutilated moon”, “he fled through looms of leaves, fingered by spiders”, “moon-bitten, storm struck eater of stars, and dreams, it’s scream strangles the night “, “silken killer moves like water”, and “when I see you I could burst into flower”

What the owl taught me is a stirring read that captures your attention throughout. The collection is a testimony to Annest’s poetic prowess. Anyone with an interest in bestiaries, a love for wildlife and their share of environmentalist concerns would thoroughly enjoy this book.


Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Mashaal Sajid

Wolfpack Contributor: Annest Gwilym

Book Review: “Surfacing” by Annest Gwilym  (review by Mashaal Sajid)

Bio: Author of two books of poetry: Surfacing (2018) and What the Owl Taught Me (2020), both published by Lapwing Poetry. Annest has been published in various literary journals and anthologies, both online and in print. She has been placed in writing competitions, winning one. She lives on the coast of north west Wales with her rescue dog.

Book Review: “Surfacing” by Annest Gwilym (review by Mashaal Sajid)

Poetry Pamphlet Review: Surfacing by Annest Gwilym | Sammi Loves Books
Surfacing by Annest Gwilym

A dauntless and personal debut poetry collection by Annest Gwilym. Surfacing was published in 2018 by Lapwing Publications. Annest is based in North Wales, near Snowdonia National Park. Her writing has been widely published in literary journals and anthologies. She has been placed in competitions, winning one in recent years and she was the editor of the former webzine Nine Muses Poetry.

Surfacing is a collection of poems all unified by themes dealing with mental illness, loneliness and anguish. One distinguishing feature of this collection is the speaker’s tenacity and spirit and how their vulnerability allows us to feel for and have a closer look into the internal world of someone struggling with mental illness. 

The book cover is symbolic of light at the end of the tunnel or in this case a glimmer at the end of a passage under a dark canopied forest. The 19 poems all with unique poignant titles are arranged into three parts, each denoting a shift in the atmosphere which is most evident in ‘Bright little pill’ and ‘Beach pottery mosaic’. The language is at times abrupt,flowing with underwater references and seascapes at other times like “The sea outside your house slyly slides past mine”, “My heart beats sea-surged”, and “even my broken glass can become sea treasure”. 

Evocative imagery paired with visuals of animals and the natural world world like “Before the Storm irises Black Star lilies”, “In a forest full of hemlock and wolfsbane”, “a sweet soil shelter” transports you to a welsh landscape and reminded me of Arthur Rackham’s illustrations. The first part heavy with imagery that invokes loneliness, desolation and being distant from the world, paired with everyday visuals like “percussion of washing machine”, “blinds are drawn day doesn’t break there”, “the cutlery is mismatched”, “slow as a Sunday afternoon” becomes haunting. 

The poems in the second part deal with fear, paranoia, treatment and drowsy liminal hospital rooms. The poem ‘Last night’ echoes Lady Lazarus. This part has a very dream heavy and sleep induced atmosphere, Some imagery that really stood out is “If they shut me in an attic I could fly out on singed wings”, “whaled woman lies beached drowning lungs broadcast”, “people move like smoke”.

In the third part of the collection the language becomes more grounded in reality and the atmosphere becomes warmer, the visuals calm and solitary but familiar as we move towards the end the tone shifts to one of hope. “The house curls in on itself”, “festive glow of pub and bistro”, “the steaming parcel a warm hand in mine”, “the sun’s yolk descends behind the island where I picked wild strawberries” are some examples. 

Life Underwater is my favorite Poem in Surfacing, it has a beautiful form and makes brilliant use of references and imagery. “Like Sisyphus I roll each jellied day one after the other, Without Orpheus to sing me back” this line leaves me astounded every time. 
Surfacing takes you on an intense reflective and emotive journey which ends for the reader in a warm and hopeful way.

Wolfpack Contributor: Annest Gwilym

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Annest Gwilym

Wolfpack Contributor Bio: Mashaal Sajid

Bio: Author of two books of poetry: Surfacing (2018) and What the Owl Taught Me (2020), both published by Lapwing Poetry. Annest has been published in various literary journals and anthologies, both online and in print. She has been placed in writing competitions, winning one. She lives on the coast of north west Wales with her rescue dog.