Written for both readers who love poetry and readers who usually don’t, “Water Runs Red” by Jenna Clare is a poetry collection that takes the fairytale princess in love theme and flips it. Instead of focusing on love in a romantic relationship, it focuses on love in a friendship.
As one who does not typically read or love poetry, this collection was surprising with its relatability and story-like tone. My experience reading poetry has led me to feel it is often too staged or dramatic, which feels inauthentic. Contemporary poetry often feels as if it were left unfinished and with its only poetic quality being the formatting of the words on the page. However, Clare surprises with her collection because of the authenticity in her writing and unique touches that add to the reading experience.
This collection is unique because each page is accompanied by pictures and illustrations created by Clare. In addition to being an author, Clare works as a freelance photographer. Her photography experience is evident in the quality of her images, and her doodles and designs add a personal touch. This format makes the reader feel as if they are getting a glimpse into her scrapbook or diary, and helps make the bond between author and reader more concrete.
Clare covers topics such as friendships and friendship break-ups, body image, religion in the modern world, asexuality, mental health and connection to the arts. The main theme centers around how the end of a friendship can be just as devastating as the end of a romantic relationship. Clare describes the process of two friends splitting apart throughout the book. She walks the reader through her experience with losing a friend and describes the tension and emotions involved perfectly.
Many poems are on the effects a bad relationship can have on a friendship. Her words expertly create images for the reader. Clare captures the experience in a way that makes those who know the pain feel recognized and causes those who don’t to understand.
Clare continues the fairytale themes of misunderstood witches and tarnished rulers throughout the poems without becoming cliché. Instead, it adds a sense of understanding when she uses commonly known metaphors in her own unique way.
The poems easily stand on their own, but there is a very distinct storyline throughout the book. It’s easy to tell that a lot of careful thought went into the order, and the outcome is worth the time. They flow seamlessly together to become one story. This sense of plot may be what could cause any who are typically not fans of poetry to fall in love with this collection.
Her poems are simple but structured lyrically and full of raw, genuine emotion. This creates a very natural sense of connection between the reader and author that the subject matter only accentuates.
Reading this collection is akin to reading your friend’s diary. Clare’s relatability causes her to be the voice of a generation and the photos and doodles included in the collection only increases the feeling. She expertly captured emotion in her words in a fearless and vulnerable way. This is a worthwhile read for anyone wanting to feel known, hopeful and inspired.
For an enhanced reading experience, Clare created a Spotify playlist of the songs she listened to while creating her collection and that she feels best embodies the tone of the book. Listen to the Water Runs Red playlist here.