Young women are finally having their day. With Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur holding firmly to its bestseller position—both in hardcover and paperback—there’s been a renewed interest in poetry, particularly in young adults. As a bookseller and poetry buff, seeing young women coming into the store every day and heading for the poetry section has been gratifying and heartwarming, if I’m honest.
Many ask me for recommendations after finishing Milk and Honey. I have a few standbys (which will be discussed here at some point). Neon Soul, a new release from Alexandra Elle, just shot to the top of my recommendation list.
I don’t really want to compare the two, though in some ways they’re similar. To compare them to would ignore what makes each work unique. If Milk and Honey soothes a broken heart, then Neon Soul teaches you what to do with it.
Throughout the collection, Elle gracefully discusses the ups and downs of healing. It does not come at the hands of an outsider, but from within. You take your broken heart, your hurt, your falls, and love yourself anyway.
“finding yourself never looks
the same. it tastes different each time
you stray. the journey back will
always be rewarding, home always
feels as good as it sounds.”
– “stray,” page 54
Elle’s writing is unabashedly open and intimate. Her poetry resonated with me as I read it, mostly because it’s about coming back. It’s not about what destroyed you; it’s about how you piece yourself back together, and why it’s okay if it takes a long time. Her style is confessional and validating. She urges the reader to discern what it is that is leaving them hollow, what has dragged them down and taken pieces of them. And she advises them to let go. Letting go in a tricky subject, and one not always presented with the sensitivity it warrants. Not every situation affords the option of letting go. Countless words have been written in ode to dropping all responsibilities and doing what it is you want to do, always leaving those bound by circumstance completely cold.
Neon Soul does not fall into that trap. Elle knows that letting go can be the most difficult thing for someone to do. She knows that it doesn’t look like setting off for the horizon filled with joie de vie. That it’s hard, and sometimes means leaving pieces of yourself behind. The joy, however, is the reclamation of self that follows. It takes time, but it’s better for having been worse.
“freedom will sometimes
taste like forgiveness.
it may not always be
sweet, but it should be
– “forgive,” page 142