Lovelace’s new collection takes you deep into yourself and your relationships before it spins you around to face the sun again.
From the author of the series women are some kind of magic (including the witch doesn’t burn in this one), to drink coffee with a ghost by Amanda Lovelace is the second book in the things that haunt duology.
Amanda describes herself as, “having grown up a word-devourer & avid fairy tale lover,” with a love for pumpkin spice coffee and The Gilmore Girls, so it may come as a surprise that her books aren’t exactly as light-hearted.
In to drink coffee with a ghost, readers open to an intro page listing trigger warnings like “child abuse, eating disorders, sexual assault, gore, trauma, grief,” and more. Lovelace asks her readers to practice self-care before and after reading — which is a kindness, especially for readers today who are more and more turning to poetry as a tool in their wellness and mental health arsenal.
Content & Themes
The book is separated into three sections, ghost mother, ghost daughter, and sun-showers — immediately setting a tone and showing you that there are both darkness and light.
Off the bat the book is haunting with words like, “every door locks &/ unlocks itself — / every lightbulb/ explodes into pieces.” There is a ghost here, in the pages, and it lingers.
There is a painful nostalgia in these pages: “i pour not one but two cups. i wait & wait & wait even though i know you won’t show up to hear what i have to say.” Following this poem is an illustration of a ouija board beside two cups of coffee, as there are many psychics and witches who believe setting out two cups of coffee or wine will invite a ghost inside.
It’s almost like the cups are set out both for Lovelace and her ghosts as well as for you and yours. Perhaps the ghost is a person who has passed on. Or maybe the ghost is pain, is loss, is fear, is grief, is love. All of our ghosts live in these pages, even though the book is obviously personal to Lovelace.
Lovelace opens the first section with, ‘ghost mother’ with the lines, “lately, it seems like everywhere i look, i only find daughters haunted by something their mothers did to them.’
Many of the poems thereafter confess family trauma, like a mother smoking cigarettes while pregnant, or a mother teaching her daughter to hate her own body. Or a mother dying of cancer: (“now i’m terrified to leave a room without saying goodbye to everyone inside of it first.”).
Later, there is more talk of magic, like tarot cards and salt thrown over shoulders and spells cast. Because in this book there is so much talk of death and the liminality between then and now, between nostalgia and trauma, between what is safe and what isn’t, and between the broken self and the healing self.
It is hard to capture the immensity and tide of trauma and grief, especially when it occurs within our families. And it’s even harder to capture the light of healing and convey both in equal measure. This book accomplishes that with strength and a linguistic grace you don’t find in many modern poets.
Voice & Tone
Like Lovelace’s earlier work, readers can find something accessible but poignant in this collection’s pages. Her language is clear, easy-to-understand, and vulnerable.
Most of the poems are short, and many sound and feel more like affirmations (“most of the time, the person who hurts you is the person who makes your face light up more than the moon at full brightness”) or plain-language statements (“i could never be who you always
wanted me to be”).
Although the language is simple and reads more like snippets out of a diary, what readers get is thematically heavy. It’s not a light read, even if the language is easy.
In fact, speaking openly and plainly about pain and cancer and death and darkness may be Lovelace’s greatest skill set. Instead of running readers through a maze, it’s her starkness and precise use of language that really brings these themes home.
Young readers and poets especially will find something important and healing here. For anyone with experience with family trauma, loss of a parent, and identity issues surrounding conflict with family, this book feels like it sees and hears you. It listens to you. It very likely echoes your story inside hers.
The thing is, the sun does come out. The pages are heavy and emotionally taxing to read — especially if you have experienced grief — but there is light at the end. There is love. There is self-reclamation. There is healing.
Lovelace writes, “eventually,/ the rain just/sounds like/rain—” promising that a day does come that feels natural and normal again.