By Courtenay

*** I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher through Netgalley. All opinions are my own


whiskey words & a shovel 1 is a is a revised and repackaged collection of the self-same titled whiskey words & a shovel released in 2015. This is a collection of poems offering catharsis for anyone nursing a broken heart. Or anyone who feels broken by the world around them. It simultaneously attempts to come to terms with the past while grasping hope for the future. It is a poetry book that may be helpful while going through trouble relating to relationships or idealized relationships that never occur, but I do not think I would ever return to this collection.

One of my favourite motifs in this collection was the depiction of overthinking after midnight. Often sin would cut these pieces short, which I found to be the most impactful. I could identify with the darkness accompanying the post midnight moments, even if I could not connect with a majority of this collection.

I was disappointed by this collection. I read whiskey words & a shovel 2 and really enjoyed it. I may have just read it in a different head space than the one I am in now. Poetry, after all, is subjective. I found this collection to be overwritten and, at times, melodramatic. However, it is clear the act of writing the poems was one of healing and recovery. I cannot dictate what is appropriate representation of the author’s experiences, but I did roll my eyes a couple of times. Most of the eyerolling came when sin attempted to represent how a woman feels engaging with the world. It was too general and candy coated. Many of the poems utilize a rhetoric of you deserve more and therefore will get more in the future. Look there is a caring man, like me, waiting for you out there. Yay. It just felt fake and detracted from the collection. It may be that my personal understanding just differs from sin, which it completely fine, I could not connect with the caricatures of women who he attempted to relate to the reader.

What bothered me most about this collection is the perspective provided by sin on women in society. The narrator has had problematic relationships with women in the past, for which they were at fault for. He only wanted to love them, but they lied to him. But wait, you, the reader, are a woman looking for redemption and love that can only be provided by the good guy narrator who is sensitive to the hurt you where under your skin. All those other men did not appreciate you, but they didn’t understand you. He does. For me, this type of rhetoric is refractive of the way women are perceived in society. We are things to be discarded before a man comes along and makes us a person. It is not a position I get behind.

As the opening and ending poems articulate, this collection is for r.h. sin’s muse and fiancé. It is an intensely personal collection, but one that I felt was distant from what it was intending to put forward. There are some brilliant moments when sin doesn’t try too hard to create intentional meaning. For example: nothing is louder/than overthinking/after midnight. Interpretation was left open and it is these shorter poems where sin’s interpretations of the world shine through.

I was not impressed by this collection. For fans of sin’s other collections, I do not think this is mandatory reading. It is okay, but lacks the depth and relatability, beyond just heartbreak, to be good.