Book Review | Nicotine and Napalm, by Emily Priest

For somebody who loves reading an awful lot, my lack of book reviews on this blog is shameful. I have so much to say about the novels get through, but so keen am I so start the next, I barely find the time to get everything down on paper.

I’m determined to make sure that this changes.

And so, in my new bid to up my book-blogging game, let me introduce my latest read.

Nictotine and Napalm is Emily Priest‘s debut poetry collection. Emily is a Portsmouth-based poet who is well known on the local scene, and this is a collection of her pieces focusing on the destructible and durable nature of love, relationships, and what it means to be a young woman today.

I’ve seen Emily perform her work at events with the Front Room in Southsea, and was intrigued to see some more of her poetry; so when she offered me an advance copy of this book, I jumped at the chance.

After all, one of the best ways to develop as a poet is to read the work of others.

A book of poetry propped up on a vintage typewriter

Nicotine and Napalm is very much a complete collection. Each piece flows on from the former, and they all have very similar themes and sentiments. I found some more powerful than others, but the varying lengths and intensity of individual poems means that the reader is kept on their toes and it does not feel arduous to read the whole book in one sitting.

Emily’s writing uses rich imagery to accentuate the emotion she shares with us. Often the same motifs recur – she has a particular affection for honey, it seems! – and though sometimes it feels slightly repetitive, it does add a thread that runs through each page and brings the poems together as one. Her voice is consistent and distinctive and bold.

I particularly enjoy her shorter, more pithy pieces. Favourites of mine include Tying NoosesOn My SleeveThose Three Words That Killed Us and The Tsunami Leftover – all quick, to the point, and directed straight at the heart.

I found myself reading many of the pieces aloud, and I would say this is a great way to work through the book. In fact, after seeing Emily perform her poetry, it’s clear much of her work is meant to be heard. There are excellent rhythm and pace and sound in her pieces.

This is not fluffy poetry. It’s filled with Emily’s feelings; her wants, needs, regrets and resentments. There’s pain, darkness, and guts galore; if you’ve met Emily, you will understand what I mean when I say that her words have the same intensity she exudes as a person.

Nicotine and Napalm is a great first foray into the world of printed poetry from Emily. It’s an enjoyable and emotional read, with many pieces that linger long after you close the last page. It’s as much of a pleasure to read as it is to hear Emily perform.

I look forward to Emily’s next book, for I am sure she will be publishing many more in the future, since she has so much to say.

This book was sent to me in exchange for a review, but all of my views and responses are unbiased, honest and completely my own.



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