Reviews

Review | Cracked Open by Megan O’Keeffe

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Wow. You know when you read something that just speaks to your soul; when someone puts on the page the exact thoughts and feelings you’ve had yourself and makes you feel like you’re not alone in the mistakes you’ve made and hard times you’ve experienced? Well this is one of those. If you’ve ever been through heartbreak, doubted yourself or a relationship, struggled to find yourself after what seems like irreparable damage – you need to read this. When Megan at Debatable Dateable first contacted me to offer me the chance of reviewing Cracked Open, I was hesitant as I’d never read a book of poetry before and wasn’t sure I would do it justice. How glad am I I chose to take the plunge and give it a go though! This is a book I know I will return to again and again throughout my journey to find love. It just gets me, you know?

Megan describes Cracked Open as a “personal journey of love that I believe a lot of readers can relate to” and she couldn’t be more right. She uses chapters in order to illustrate this journey, with each chapter being a different stage in ending one relationship and beginning another. Chapter 1, “The Bleeding Heart”, provides poems that portray the raw and honest pain of recognising the end of a relationship and breaking up. Chapter 2, “Stitching It Up”, explores the beginning of the healing process after a break-up and how confusing this can be. For example, “Hate” scrutinises the enduring hope that you might still get back together, even if you know it isn’t what you really want and the anger you direct towards yourself for even considering it (35). Chapter 3, “The Recovery”, looks at the end of this healing process, when you finally begin to get over your ex and find your sense of self-worth again, comforted in the knowledge that you were too good for him/her. Chapter 4, “Hot Blooded Desire”, explores the passion in the beginnings of a new relationship as you get ‘back in the game’ and start to feel desire for other people again (my favourite part of a break-up). Chapter 5, “A Strong Pulse”, looks at a new relationship becoming real as passion turns to the beginnings of love, which directs you towards thoughts of a past relationship and the fear you may have to let someone in again. In “Homesick”, the narrator speaks of how her new partner’s “heart is a comfortable bed for me / to rest after a long journey” (91). This is my favourite image in the entire book as it is such a beautiful and comforting thought that we must travel through this difficult journey of good and bad relationships in order to reach our ultimate destination: the heart of someone who loves us the way we deserve and will make us truly happy. I love the way Megan chose to structure Cracked Open as I think it points out the key parts of the journey we all experience and can relate to, while also breaking a confusing and overwhelming process down to something simple and comprehendible.

Cracked Open is filled with expertly utilised poetry techniques that aid the poet in illustrating the thoughts and feelings involved in this journey of love. In the first chapter, Megan uses a short poem to emphasise the suddenness of a particular break-up. “Just Like That” is a four-line poem, showing how just as quickly as we can read those four lines, a long-term relationship can end. The poem also ends with an ellipsis after the words “it was over”, which suggests there is more to come, perhaps echoing that feeling we all know of wondering if it really is over. Another technique the poet uses is capitalisation in poems such as “Love You Love Me Not”, which tells of how “it’s my life or yours, / and I choose Mine” (27). This translates the narrator’s feelings of self-worth to the page, showing her realisation of the importance of her own life, “yours” does not get a capital letter because “Mine” is more important. A final technique Megan uses is enjambment, which I particularly appreciate in the poem, “The Feel of You” (69) – whether she intentionally positioned this poem on such a cheeky number of a page, I don’t know, but it made my childish self giggle to realise. In this poem, she writes of how her hands run over her partner’s body, “to your ribs to the easing curve / of your neck”. We follow her hands over her partner’s body and find ourselves at the curve…of what? We must pause and move onto the next line before finding it is only her/his neck. By doing this, Megan forces her reader to feel the same anticipation her partner will be feeling, we want to know where her hand will go next just as much as s/he will; she is using this technique to tease us just as she is her partner. There are many other techniques she uses within this book but these are a few of my favourites.

All fancy techniques and structures aside, my absolute favourite thing about this book, and the reason why I believe it will resonate with almost everyone who reads it, is it’s raw honesty. Megan writes about the positive and negative sides of love and exposes herself as much as she does those she enters into this journey with. For example, in “Neither Lovers Nor Lusters”, she writes about how, “we were just two people wasting time / comfortable in the in-between, / hiding from our truths” (7). This might not be the type of relationship we usually read about in poetry but it is one that is very real that many of us can relate to. I, for one, will hold my hands up to having someone there to fill a certain space, wanting to be physically close to someone but with no strings attached, between relationships that involve real emotion. Similarly, in “This Is How Relationships End”, Megan writes about how she has almost forgotten about their love, “But we’re still together” (3). The last line appears on the page in a paragraph of its own and the final one in the poem. This makes it more shocking and harsh: the thought that she no longer loves her partner but she is still with her/him; does the partner know how she feels? Again, this is so honest and real and something I have felt myself – I’ve stayed in a relationship I knew was over for the fear of hurting someone else’s feelings and being alone.

There were so many different things I could have talked about when reviewing Cracked Open as there are so many important ideas and messages within it but I had to reign myself in. That’s why I urge everyone to read and take what you wish from it, let it speak to you and your own journey in ways it may not have for me. I want to say a huge thank you to Megan for sending me a free copy of this book so that I could write this review, you are a very talented writer and I hope you continue to produce such engaging work!

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