Poetry, particularly confessional poetry, has the power to make us think, feel, see and hear the world differently. It can also be a transformative force for poets as well, helping them to make sense of their experiences and translating them for others to understand more keenly. Subtitled “a guide to healing and rediscovering yourself,” A Life Cycle (Woven Ember Press) by Nicole Asherah is just that. Through evolving sets of poems, Asherah invites us into her world, cycling through themes of trauma, healing and self-acceptance.

The collection is organized into five sections, including an untitled first section, that are guideposts along Asherah’s transformation from a broken and scattered self into a vibrant, whole individual. There is a helpful Q&A section at the end of the book as well, in which Asherah goes into more detail about the inspiration behind the poems and her intentions for publishing them.

A COLLECTION OF EXPRESSIVE AND RELATABLE POETRY

I was glad that the information in the Q&A came at the end, as it allowed the poetry to stand on its own and be interpreted without knowing the specificity of the experiences from which they stem. Asherah’s poems deal with universal and relatable subjects: the effects of social and family expectations on us, the need to feel loved, the nature of time, the traps of perfectionism, the fine line between generosity and loss of self, how healing is an iterative process that is often two steps forward and one step back, and how life destroys and recreates us over and over.

One of Asherah’s strongest suits as a poet is in where she ends her poems. Many of these endings took my breath away with their profound emotional and intellectual resonance, such as the ending to this one about how we press on despite our wounds, reinjuring ourselves in the process: “With our head held high / We live, / Racing forwards to the future. // And we wonder why / Blood continues to trail behind us / Wherever we go.”

FRESH REVELATIONS FROM NEW PERSPECTIVES

Also among the poems are those on the healing power of love, even love that is no longer in our lives, and even when love is difficult: “The hardest thing someone can do is love another person. / It is why you shouldn’t love easily. / Yes, send love to all who come your way / But do not love them, / Because loving takes pieces of you. / It is only worth it / If you are given their pieces in exchange / So you both are whole / In a completely new way.” What a revelation that poem is in comparison to the commonplace sentiment, “you make me whole”!

There are numerous examples of this throughout the collection — poems that tackle subjects we think we’ve thought, talked and read about a hundred times over and yet, this time, we suddenly “get it” in a way we never did before. That, my friends, is the power of poetry.

I’ll leave you with a quote from one of the most powerful poems in this collection. It does a good job of summing up what healing and transformation are really about: “Sometimes losing yourself really means letting go / Of who you used to be. / … Let yourself grieve the innocence lost / And celebrate the wisdom found. // It is time to become the you that is now.”

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Nicole Asherah is an artist whose main mediums are poetry, film photography, and oil painting but she has a habit of dabbling in whatever sparks her creative juices. Switching between mediums of expression, Nicole tries to connect readers to intimate moments, feelings, and relationships experienced throughout life. She wants to break your heart with the raw emotion that her pieces evoke. She hopes you find joy in that heartbreak as she always does!

Nicole has a unique background; she was raised by a psychologist, has backpacked around more than 15 countries by herself, attended Roehampton University’s Creative Writing Poetry MFA, volunteered with SURJ and other grassroots organizations that have all synthesized to give her a broad understanding of peoples individual struggles and how to capture them in art.