I found Megan O’Keeffe’s poetry collection Where I Ache a moving and relatable read which I enjoyed immensely. Arranged into six sections labelled as “My Foggy Head”, “My Weak Spine”, “My Bruised Heart”, “My Grieving Knees”, “My Greedy Green Eyes”, and “My Soothing Arms”, Megan explores the self and her world in terms of mental health, addiction, love, acceptance, loss and death in beautiful and poignant poems and phrasings, as well as moments of boldness and firm articulations. Her sparing use of italics and bold font allow certain points to be felt stronger or driven home for the reader. I found the use of these elements were well employed and added to the reading experience. I also enjoyed viewing the accompanying images by Kevin Furey, as I feel that it’s nice to have a visual attached to poems at times.
I found myself able to identify with and relate to many of the themes and poems Megan has written about, and could feel her pain, suffering, joy, and love bounce forth to me from the pages. Her sense of aching is there to be seen, and her open vulnerability to the readers is very touching. It’s something I also found humbling, that I was being allowed into her private world, an open door for me to enter. With a raw and honest style, she quietly and beautifully details her inner strengths as well as what she views as her inner demons.
Her poetry touched me on many levels, in that I felt an affinity towards the topics and feeling she has detailed, as I have experienced similar myself. I draw attention to the poem “Hey You”, where she is striving to be enough for another – “Am I good enough for you now?” repeated over and over, really touched me; it’s something that hit home with me. So too did this line in “Fragile” – “I don’t handle criticism well and I handle compliments even worse”. Additionally, I adored the visual of her line in “No Quick Fix”: “flaws and flowers, a garden growing in my heart, I want to bloom for you”.
Megan’s work emphasises that no matter whether there are dark or painful times, there is still hope and love in life to be able to carry on seeking and experiencing. That change is not something to shy away from, and learning from the past will carry us through.
–Reviewed by Lauren M. Hancock
And now let us share some words with Megan herself, and get to know the poet a little more.
What did you learn after publishing Cracked Open that you implemented for Where I Ache?
I basically just organized Cracked Open and published it. It was my first publication so I knew nothing and I also had finally worked up the courage after years of telling myself not to publish, so I didn’t want to lose my nerve. But from my first publication, I learned the importance of beta readers, taking the time to build buzz before launching such as blog tours, and using ARCs to get the word out to readers ahead of time.
What do you hope readers will take away from your newest collection Where I Ache?
I hope my readers will feel a sense of community with these sensitive topics that normally make them feel alone. I hope they find strength and comfort in that support.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a writer?
My biggest mistake as a writer was probably not believing in myself and taking so long to put myself out there. I never thought I’d be writing past high school and I definitely didn’t think my blog Debatably Dateable would last more than a few, short months. It took me a long time to start promoting my work and grow my audience. It’s hard to promote yourself, it feels a bit unnatural. Don’t be afraid to try all means of marketing – social, email, print, and networking.
What do you hope to accomplish in your writing endeavors?
I hope to continue publishing poetry books for many years to come so that readers can find support and community through my collections. I also hope to publish in different writing styles and genres.
Disclaimer: Megan and I traded copies of our books in exchange for fair and honest reviews.