A Book Review of Every Poem a Potion, Every Song a Spell by Stephanie Parent (reviewed by David L O’Nan & Jessica Weyer Bentley)

Book Review from Every Poem a Potion, Every Song a Spell by Stephanie Parent (Querencia Press, LLC Chicago, IL 2022)

A Review of “Every Poem a Potion, Every Song A Spell” by David L O’Nan

As I began reading to foreword to Stephanie’s book I knew I wasn’t about to read just any collection of poetry. 

I was about to read into the heart of a girl growing up that had equal fascinations with the beauty of

The characters and the macabre of the stories.   The Light, the darkness, the fairytales, the evening falling back in the coals.  

The perception that life can be beautiful, but with the cloud of doubt simmering by.

Influenced by folktales of Gretchen and Disney movies. These are poetry based on truisms and fantasy.

Are they all really that different?

While Hollywood tried their best to glam up the Cinderella, the Sleeping Beauty, the Snow White and Little Mermaid and so on, it seemed there was someone’s haunting voice that said that wasn’t my image when I began to write about what is NOT happening. How life is NOT treating everyone equally.

And women of the day could fell every bit of this dismal falsehoods of love and everafters, only to find  the abuses of wars and Princes who could never life up to sainthood.

The examples:

From “When Everything Else Was Gone” 

“Girls who walked barefoot through the snow 

Girls who wove cloth fine enough the fit through the eye Of a needle”

Girls who found the treasure within

A Million grains of rice” …  The Key to their own   Salvation.

From Into the Forest:

The common theme of woods enters the picture from folklore

“Conjures scraped knees, ripped dresses

Pounding hearts

Secrets and monsters and


“Men might march through

With axes and torchs

“But women slip sidewise

Through the branches

Welcoming fear and shadow

As familiar friends”

The constant slurs and abuse from the older women. “The Evil stepmothers” and a consistent view of how men wouldn’t push past boundaries to be stronger humans and enforce what has always been taught to be brawny and fearless and at times abusive.

From Part One: Strange Creatures:

How womanhood changes at a young age affect a personality and confidence or a shame at least temporarily.

“I never wanted to be a human girl

Who sweated under her arms

Grew prickly hairs on her legs

Bled between her thighs”

She just wanted to be a mermaid.  To live the fantasy of not having to deal with the tragedies and triumphs.  The fragility of humankind much like a bird with weathered wings.

From Crack Nuts:

This tells of a girl fleeing for the first time away from the consistency that has been the hurt and try

To reshape herself into her own identity, away from what has been perceived upon her.

“When I left home for the first time

I went a little nuts”

“I didn’t find the castles or cottages or huntsmen I hoped for

In my forest, which was actually a city

Bordered by salty oceans and ashy mountains”

To reach out for mother when you needed her, the idea that she was ready to start anew left

Even more bruising and less fairytales.

From Red Hood in the Woods (Little Red Riding Hood):

A piece based on a woman wanting to create an identity for herself, to be who she wanted to be.

But prowlers and miscreants could only see her as an object.

“Look: She wouldn’t have worn red

If she didn’t want the wolf to notice her.


“We didn’t’ ask to be trapped

Within the rank flesh

Of the wolf’s belly

Tucked into ourselves, knees kissing temples

Breathing blood and acid and fear

Waiting for some huntsman to slit the fur

See that red hood”

The metaphors drip off this page beautifully.  And paint the picture of the wanted posters that should be out there in more and more cities.

From Clawed Creatures: (Beauty and the Beast)

“Last Spring, her father had arrived home

Holding a rose with petals the color of blood –

A rose that never withered

Though the frost still crunched beneath his boots

The half-frozen gate still creaked on its hinges

As he stepped back into his bedraggled garden

Telling tales of a monster

That no one quite believed”

From Little Cages (Jorinda and Joringel, Part One);

(her singing birds

Transformed by her own hands

To resemble creatures native to exotic


She could never see)

…No girl ends up in a beautiful cage.

From Poissonnier (the Little Mermaid):

“All Knives

Our Human legs are things of violence

They kick and scramble and open wide”

I could keep going on but you have to read for yourself to realize the metaphors in these re-telling of fairytales are not what a young woman is told will happen. These are realities and fairytales need to be taken as serious and cautious and not expected.  Dangerous people, situations beyond our control is out there to try and derail the happiness. It is up to the reader to search for the hope that Stephanie provides within the books in small inklings.

 Many of these stories have been previously published before in wonderful litmags throughout the years.  Stephanie has a wonderful talent for re-imagining a true world view on what a fairytale wishes it were.

Every Single Poem a Potion, Every Song a Spell by Stephanie Parent is a enigmatic creation of imagery and spell bound twist of tales. The poetry speaks to the romantic and mystic persona of the individual, the distant lands, and of the elusive creature. Stephanie reveals mirrors with stanzas of a universe just beyond the haze. A breathtaking gaze into the globe of the faint edges of belief. From “Everything Else is Gone” to “The Answer” Stephanie calls you into the unknown as a Pied Piper of literary imaginings. A truly mesmerizing read that continuously surprises you with a scope of a splendorous and cerebral fairyland. 

  • Jessica Weyer Bentley

Every Poem a Potion, Every Song a Spell is available through Querencia Press, LLC in Chicago, IL (2022)

You can find this wonderful book through the normal avenues of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, amongst Stephanie’s own website.

Follow Stephanie on twitter @sc_parent

Get a copy through Amazon: https://amzn.to/3Qc0ss5

Get a copy through Barnes & Noble https://bit.ly/3AzlCdW

Get a copy through Target https://bit.ly/3Qf4M9P

An interwie with The Poetry Question https://thepoetryquestion.com/2022/08/23/review-every-poem-a-potion-every-song-a-spell-stephanie-parent-querencia-press/

Reviews on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/61333742-every-poem-a-potion-every-song-a-spell

Other Reviews: https://howlinglibraries.com/every-poem-a-potion-every-song-a-spell/

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