Nikita Gill’s poetry collection Your Heart Is the Sea follows a contemporary trend that combines survivor poetics with self-love and self-help. It feels like the poetry collection you want to give your friend who is going through a hard time. Her style is raw and beautiful, but what truly makes it impactful is the accessibility and ease of Gill’s writing. Sometimes, the best things are said in the most straightforward ways, and this is evidenced in this collection. Gill’s style is similar to that of Rupi Kaur or Amanda Lovelace, however, I would add that Gill’s poetry differs in that it has an eco-centric nature to it.
The collection of poetry is broken up into eight sections, and each grouping explores a specific theme. Her opening section centres on anguish and learning that we are broken, flawed, and sometimes complicit in our own pain. Gill challenges the pre-conceived social norms for depression and anxiety—falling apart—and proffers the question: is pain and falling apart “a soft strangulation hidden/ that we miss all the time/ behind words like “I’m fine?” (18). She also cautions against apathy and indifference to our hurt – “the darkness is never a surprise./ The shadows never shock.” (22). It is far too common for us, as women, to simply accept the pain that is thrown at us in life. We are told time and time again through fiction and facts, that love is pain, art is pain, and therefore only good when it truly hurts us. Yet this is simply not viable or true.
Gill also challenges the narrative that perpetrators of our pain should get to tell the story of it. In her poem, ‘On Hurt’ (section ‘The Decent’) Gill rightfully states, “You do not get to/ destroy someone/ and decide how ruined/ the are allowed to feel.” (41-42). She also argues in her poetry that healing takes time and cannot be rushed. In these first 40 pages or so, Gill breaks down complex emotions and psychological issues that would otherwise require whole textbooks. She advocates seeking professional help, and I feel that her poetry collection offers a gateway to it.
Nature and its ability to fight and heal, love and hate, and heal and destroy, are all strong themes throughout Gill’s work. Poems like ‘A Bee’s Sting’ or ‘A Seaside Study’ turn to nature for answers. The former poem asks us not to be afraid to die for what we believe in, and on a similar note the latter asks us to be like a fish that “refused to stop struggling” (53). Creatures of the sea like water itself provide Gill with a metaphorical canvas with which to paint her poems. In ‘The Sea and I’ Gill writes, “There was no apology in it for anyone,/ she took the room that she [the sea] needed.” (69). In her explorations with nature, Gill is asking us to look our natural world for help and understanding. Often, it is easy for us to forget that we are humans, and ultimately animals that are not above nature, but in it. It is both humbling and liberating to remember this. We are, as Gill writes, “like a forest.” (79). So many parts of us make up who we are just like a forest. We are not one single tree, or identity. And by centring ourselves in nature, Gill shows us that we do not need to ask permission to exist or be. Our existence and creation is extremely lucky, and why do we waste our time asking for permission to shine?
The section that felt slightly out of place for me in this collection was ‘The Worship’ which centred on Greek mythology. As a stand-alone section, it is interesting to read as it brings universality to the human experience, however, it didn’t seem to fit with the other themes of the collection.
All in all, I really enjoyed reading Gill’s collection, and I hope to be able to see more of her work in the future. There is a real need for more women to tell their stories, and I think it is great that poetry is getting a contemporary revival through these stories. Lastly, I want to thank Thought Catalog Books for sending me this collection of poetry for review purposes. It means a lot to have publishers respect and trust your work.
What poetry collections have you read lately? Will you be picking up Gill’s collection? As always, share the reading love.
Note: this novel was accessed through Thought Catalog Books for review purposes.