I was recently introduced to Courtney Pepernell’s works through Instagram and I requested her two poetry books that will be released later this year from Andrew McMeel Publishing: Pillow Thoughts and The Road Between—both collections will be released on August 29. Courtney Peppernell is an LGBTQ author from Sydney, Australia focusing on Young Adult novels and Poetry Collections. Keeping Long Island is her third title release, and the first under her new book brand, Pepper Books. Pepper Books is a publishing house that has just been started this year and will focus on Poetry and LGBT communities.
This collection was first self-published on October 4th, 2016 and has recently been picked up by Andrew McMeel. Pillow Thoughts is about love. It sort of took me by surprise when I noticed that it rhymes in a ‘fun Dr. Seuss’ kind of way but the subject matter itself is deep and honest. If I had to compare I would say it’s a combination of John Keats and Dr. Seuss. It sets up this sort of innocent, whimsical-humour-seriousness from the beginning with this poem:
Before we begin, I’d like to share a story.
Once upon a time there was a jellyfish. We’ll call it
You became lost sometimes
You could be a little unsure
You tried very hard.
But sometimes it didn’t feel like enough.
I hate to spoil the ending
But you is fine
You is still here.
You is going to make it.
The references to “you is” as a trending internet meme-culture joke is preceeded by a quotation from the Chainsmokers. This lightness of “the here and now” touched with recognizable references makes Peppernell very relatable and accessible as a young emerging poet.
Throughout her collection these references occur. Peppernell places before us lines and images we’ve seen repeatedly on online forums. For instance, she alludes to the famously known Albert Camus quotation changing it slightly:
“you promised you’d never take a road that I could not follow”
The poems in this collection go through love, heartbreak, and the various kinds of dynamics that exist in a relationship between young people. Based on the language used and the style of choice I think this book is ideal for preteens and teenagers. At its core this collection has a message which to me is: you will experience all this and you will hit some serious downfalls, however you will be okay. Everything will be okay in the end.
The Road Between
This collection is exploring growth, mapping the metaphorical geographical spaces in one’s life. I.e. the caves you hide in when you are afraid.
I enjoyed this collection more than the one mentioned above because it deals with various aspects of one’s life where love is a part of it rather than its center.
This collection is also filled with proverb-like sentences like:
“you are not defined by the stage you are at in life. Just because you are unsure of where you are heading doesn’t mean you don’t know who you are inside.”
I read some reviews of Pillow Talk shaming Peppernell’s use of language and simplicity. I think we need to look at poems like Peppernell’s as: us the readers getting a glimpse into an individual’s growth and healing journey. Peppernell uses poetry as a way to understand herself growing up different. There are many “in the closet” references throughout her poetry, or hiding in a cave for comfort. I think it was more important for Peppernell to write this collection than it is for us to read it and/or judge it. As a reader and poetry lover I find it difficult to review things that are so personal. I wish Peppenell did more with the language, and played around with the structure. I also think some poems shouldn’t have been incorporated in the collection as they distract from the whole. However, I am happy these collections exist and I’m very excited to see what Peppernell will release in her newly created LGBT-focused poetry publishing house. Overall I enjoyed The Road Between more than Pillow Thoughts and both strongly reminded me of Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey, so if you enjoyed that collection perhaps give Peppernell a try.
Again if I were to recommend this to readers I would direct this to a younger audience perhaps ages 12-16.