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  • Writer's pictureStephanie M. Wytovich

Happily Buried by Jessica Drake-Thomas

Resurrection is a favorite theme of mine when it comes to storytelling. I just love the intensity of it and how it pushes boundaries and bodies to shapeshift, to reinvent oneself. When it comes to poetry, I think of Sylvia Plath’s The Colossus and Anne Sexton’s collection Transformations, and so when I read the tagline to Burials by Jessica Drake-Thomas (“What is buried can return”), I knew I had to have this book in my hands.

Now usually when I read poetry, I like to take my time, savor each piece, let it move and live within me. But trust me when I tell you that I devoured this book. I literally could not put it down and I read through it not once, but twice in a sitting. Not only are these poems invocations and spells, but they celebrate the divinity within us all while focusing on the shadows, the ugly, the sad. It is a celebration of our fire and our water, our passions and our tears, and personally, I am here for that darkness like a phoenix covered in flames.

The collection starts off with the poem “Queen of Sticks,” which brilliantly sets the tone for the book because at its core, it’s a poem about resilience. The character sees death, experiences death, becomes death, and yet each time she resurrects, stares him in the face, warning him, daring him, letting him know that the forest is full of secrets, that women are born screaming and dripping with a magic that doesn’t dissolve. When I think of sticks, I think of the grittiness of earth, how we ground ourselves in our surroundings, in our graves, but I also think of wands and fire, and how there is this spiritual, impulsive energy bathing in it that speaks to queens and to mothers.

As I made my way through the book, I soaked in commentary about domestic horrors, all those chains we carry that bind us to our houses, our lineage, our families (chosen or otherwise). There are love spells within that let us drink to our desires, to our failures, to our immaturity, chaos, and complexity, and I smiled at the focus on hair and beauty and pain here because all the best spells (and poems) are intimate and messy. For instance, there is a line in “Love Spell Number Two” that reads: “You’ll need/ an entire bottle/ of wine./Drink this/out of a mug,/ and extra large one,/ which reads:/ I <3 MY DOG.”

Yes, I felt personally called out here because that is real, authentic magic. It’s not the Instagram aesthetic (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but this just felt more at home to me, and I think that speaks to that earthiness that I was talking about earlier in the review with “Queen of Sticks.”

Something else that I appreciated here was the vulnerability on the page. Woven throughout these poems are memories, bone shards, ashes, and doorways, and I felt the reoccurring images of horses, birds, and hunger echoing throughout as I moved through this graveyard of decaying bodies, trapped souls, and wandering girls. In some ways, this scared me because this book felt familiar, like I’ve lived some of these lives, dreamed some of these dreams, and it makes me laugh because I remember reading something years ago about how women wake and remember that they’re witches, and I feel like sisterhood, that camaraderie here, and it’s potent.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

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