Book review: and my heart crumples like a coke can.

By Wendy J. Dunn

I just knew ‘and my heart crumples like a coke can’was a special book from almost the first moment I took it from my tall tower of TBR books on my bedside table.  Oh my God, I thought, crossly and annoyed with myself, I must have left my morning coffee cup on it. I rubbed hard at the ring stain on the cover and laughed, realizing it was not a coffee stain ring at all, but depicted a coke can stain. I found that image of a cup stain ring, with its promise of human honesty and frailty, an undeniable invitation into the pages of Ali Whitelock’s poetry. I was not disappointed.

Despite writing poetry myself, I have never read poetry to deconstruct its use of metre or speak about stanzas. I write poetry as a visceral response to living, and I want to read those kinds of poems too. I want to read honest poetry which comes from the heart, guts and soul. There is little doubt Whitelock writes from her heart, soul, and her guts. I place a particular emphasis on guts, with its meaning of strength of character and courage. These poems are courageous, and often heartbreaking, sometimes laugh out loud funny, and reveals the strength of Whitelock’s character. It also reveals her vulnerabilities. Whitelock does not shy away from facing her demons, or how life is an eternal struggle. Her poems also speak powerfully about the search to know who we are, the struggle to know and own the voice that we should sing everyday of our life. To know we will fail, and fail again, but as long as we face the new day we have the chance of emerging, scarred, always a little scared, but stronger in the ways which really matter.

That image of the coke stain ring is poetic in its symbolism. It leaves its mark on me, as does so many poems in this collection. The coke ring on the cover sits below Whitelock gazing at us, as if sitting across from us on a cafe table. She gazes at us as if inviting us to enter her life, and heart, as we do by entering and reading this book.


Backstory proudly published one of the poems from this collection in issue five.  



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