REVIEW: Drowned in Milk Tea by Anne Chivon

Poetry is my first love, and as such, I’m always going to favour it. I’ve never liked how hard people are on emotional, image-driven poetry; it’s always felt elitist at best, and misogynistic/queerphobic/kyriarchical at worst. Certainly it takes a shocking lack of compassion to entirely disregard the weight of poetry that focuses on healing from abuse, lost love, toxic relationships and mental illness.

Anne Chivon’s chapbook Drowned in Milk Tea takes on all the above topics, detailing the slow demise of a bittersweet relationship. It takes the form of a call-and-response, alternating blank prompt pages with the author’s response to them. The blank prompt pages are a cool touch, inviting the reader to fill in their version of the prompt either physically or mentally. The prompts themselves are the kind of thing you’ll find in any writing course – “write a timeline”, “write about a first”, etc.

I’ll admit, as somebody who isn’t much of a romantic, it was hard for me to connect emotionally with the poetry. Chivon’s work is very much about a relationship that won’t let go of you, not just in terms of trauma – although she explores that too – but in terms of sheer emotion. To this end, her poems are short and devastating. I think those who are less annoyingly aromantic than I am will relate more to the emotions she describes.

In terms of craft, I really enjoy her use of language, but I’m excited to see how her poetry develops. Some of the poems hit harder than others, whereas some have cool ideas but the imagery doesn’t quite hit. One of my favourites is in response to the prompt “Write something that disappears”.

I thought the more
I let my bones go free
meant the more I could
shrink away from you
like sugar dissolving
with the stir of a spoon
and finally I could do this
disappearing act
right before your eyes.

The connection between bones, sugar and disappearing made me think of death and sugar-skulls, which may or may not have been intentional but was sure cool!

If you like short, hard-hitting poetry about traumatic relationships, this is for you! Anne Chivon’s “Drowned in Milk Tea” is available on Amazon, and her Twitter is here.


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