Nectar by Upile Chisala

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In nectar, Chisala guides readers through a beautiful process of growth and renewal. These poems celebrate our always complex, sometimes troubled roots while encouraging us to grow through and beyond them toward a passionate self-love. Chisala’s hope is that her words will encourage readers to sow seeds of change in their own lives and the lives of others.

I received this from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

I wanted to like this, but I found it disappointingly similar to “instagram”/“Tumblr” poetry like the work of Rupi Kaur. 

My first issue was that the poems were incredibly short, each one being little more than a sentence or two. This wouldn’t be a huge issue, except for the fact that every single one started to sound the same, and they simply didn’t have enough room to go beyond scratching the surface. I didn’t feel anything gut-wrenching or deep from them, but I felt like they all had the potential to grow into something more. I think another issue contributing to that was the lack of poetic devices, like unique metaphors or unexpected analogies. I found most of the poems to be single-layered and a little too straight-forward. And, unfortunately, Chisala relied a little too heavily on one of my least favorite techniques–the “mic drop”, or hitting the “enter” button after a line to add emphasis. I understand that this is a fundamental building block of poetry, but the way it was used made it so much less impactful. I’ve noticed it becoming increasingly persistent in most of the YA I read, so maybe it’s something that only bothers me. I just find it to be a cheap and over-dramatic way of making something stand out. Rather than letting words speak for themselves, they are separated to make you pay attention to each one. 

There were a couple poems that I discovered deeper meaning in, mostly in the section titled “All That Grew”. I found those to be the most relatable and impactful, and I really took to heart some of the observances Chisala had about love. I think she had some interesting viewpoints and unique ways of describing relationships, and I wish there had been more of this type of work in the collection.

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I think my issue with the rest of the novel was that the topics weren’t relevant to me. There were lots of poems about emotionally abusive relationships and familial issues— they weren’t words that were meant for me at this point in my life, but I sincerely hope that anyone who does need them can come across them. Chisala also touched on some pretty heavy-hitting racial issues, which I respect and admire, but to me it didn’t seem like she had anything new to say for people who are already familiar with liberal social rhetoric. 

I liked the overall message of the poems, which is that you don’t owe anything to anyone except yourself. Chisala made the point that self-love and self-worth are the keys to healthy love and relationships with others, which is something I completely agree with. Her words were meant to empower women to be themselves, unabashedly and with pride. Ultimately, I can appreciate all of the heart and love and struggle that went into these poems, but none of them made me stop and think, or consider my emotions in some new way. I wish there had been a few more poems with narrative, or ones that weren’t about such intensely positive or negative emotion. 

Side note: one of my biggest pet peeves is when people address me with “honey” or “darling”, which is exactly what Chisala did (not me in particular, obviously, but the reader). This is complete personal preference, but that kind of irked me. Oops. 

Please recommend other poetry if you’ve found something good recently!

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