All The Things I Never Said by Jennie Louise is a short, personal collection of poetry exploring relationships with family, lovers, strangers and the self. The illustrations by Gina Stavrou complement the pieces gorgeously as Louise reminisces and pines for the past as well as the present in beautifully nostalgic pieces.
‘To family’ opens with two poems which set this tone of nostalgia but also hurt; Louise captures the way many of us look back at our childhood with a bitter sweetness – “my nails left half-moons in my palms.” ‘Forget-me-not’ is wonderful as it upturns imagery we have come to know as soft, like daisy chains and a bouquet of flowers, while ‘Sunshine Lullabies’ in opposition to this explores the safety, warmth and love to be found in family too.
The collection then moves into ‘To lovers’ which, for me, was the weakest section of Louise’s collection. Although, ‘Coping Mechanisms’ and ‘Nothing is Okay’ illustrated grief and melancholy beautifully and how people from the past come to haunt you, many of the pieces in this part were cliched and adolescent in how they portrayed love, heartbreak and unrequited love. Readers will find resonance in Louise’s words here but ‘To lovers’ lacked the honest vulnerability which I felt ‘To family’ had.
‘To strangers’ is visceral as Louise marvels at the world and endless possibility; there is a freedom in this part which was not present before. ‘Message in a bottle’ is gorgeous and evocative, followed by several pieces proving this part is by far the strongest of Louise’s collection. Louise writes about place and people superbly – “Cracked bark and wasted moss join / like an antique owner mending a broken doll; / A hole of darkness in her face of glass.”
Finally, ‘To myself’ offers more nostalgia and introspection. ‘Tough To Be a Bug’ is heartachingly raw as it sums up how fragile we are. Louise employs mosaic imagery gorgeously in this part too and I found ‘Behind Closed Doors’ to be very moving. Thus, this collection, and labour of love, will undeniably be enjoyed by many with ‘To family’ and ‘To strangers’ most notably showcasing Louise’s talent for the written word.