Tag Archives: LGBTQ Poetry

Phases: Poetry by Belinda Betker Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Author Belinda Betker takes readers on a journey of confusion, identity, and acceptance through powerful and moving poetry in the book “Phases”. 

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The Synopsis

In Phases, Belinda Betker deftly captures what it is like for those who don’t fit within rigid notions of what it means to be a “boy” or a “girl”. Capturing different phases in a life, with power and nuance she takes readers on a luminous journey of a young girl’s coming-of-age, her burgeoning sexuality (and the confusion and disorientation therein), the pitfalls of an unhappy marriage, the triumphant release of coming out, and the liberating power of drag.

In these poems, readers will find a celestial and transcendent re-discovering of the self, an unraveling of society’s expectations of gender roles, love, and desire and how these falsehoods threaten to eclipse our truth. Phases slides through time, summoning profound memories of the loss of childhood innocence through each gendered ritual, yet the resilient heart of a tomboy who stands up to bullies and can “tie a tie better than anyone” is too powerful to suppress. Betker then takes us into adulthood–an experience cut sharp by the “dark side of the moon” with a health crisis and surgery–and the victorious recovery and unearthing of buried desire and resplendent sensuality. is mercurial and unpredictable, a celebration of the non-conformist in each of us.

The Review

This was such a moving and captivating LGBTQ-Driven collection of poetry. The author’s ability to capture the raw emotions and thoughts of confusion, as well as the search for one’s identity and the promise of acceptance both for yourself and from others, is well captured in these creative yet memorable poems. The vulnerability and heart in which the author dives into these very personal memories and experiences highlight not only their journey but the difficulties and hurdles so many people in the LGBTQ community have to face.

Yet it was the imagery and the themes that really played so well with this reader. The poems did an excellent job of capturing the heart and detail of these memories of the author, and yet also found inspired and creative notes of contrast between harsh moments and beautiful realizations. The themes of accepting one’s identity, both gender and sexual identities, and the journey one go on to discover this for themselves, as well as the fight to have people accept this part of yourself, including one’s own family, were represented well. One thing that really spoke to me was the author’s ability to capture the gender “norms” that are expected of boys and girls, and how ridiculous it is that someone should be gendered or identified based on their interests on a more material or superficial level (i.e., whether a person likes makeup, clothes, cooking versus working out of the house, etc.).

The Verdict

Captivating, heartfelt, and emotional, author Belinda Betker’s “Phases” is a must-read collection of poetry for 2022 and an amazing LGBTQ Poetry read. The memoir-style writing structure and the narrative that played out across the author’s life speak volumes of their own life, as well as the experiences that so many LGBTQ readers are experiencing even to this day. The need to understand how one person’s gender and sexual identity is always something worth exploring, and that it is not always a settled thing, is something so important that should never be dismissed. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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Any Dumb Animal by AE Hines Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Author and poet AE Hines shares his memoir in a unique in-verse collection of poetry detailing the life of a gay man born and raised in the South, who came of age during the AIDS crisis in his acclaimed book, “Any Dumb Animal”.

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The Synopsis

Any Dumb Animal (Main Street Rag, 2021), the debut poetry collection by AE Hines, presents a memoir-in-verse as told by a gay man raised in the rural South who comes of age during the AIDS crisis. Flashing back and forth in time, a cast of recurring characters and circumstances are woven into a rich tale of survival and redemption, exploring one man’s life as a queer son, father, and husband, over a span of more than thirty years.

The Review

These poems were so incredibly emotional and moving to read. The mark of a truly great poet and writer is always when they can convey in words the emotions that ran through them at that moment, and I can say that the conflicting thoughts and emotions that the poet underwent here were felt greatly. The struggle to understand ourselves and our own identities are hard enough in this world, but the author and poet’s struggle against a toxic relationship with his father and later his own marital struggles really elevates these conflicting feelings tenfold.

What really stood out to me was the near cinematic and storytelling quality that the poems themselves took on. Each poem painted an image in the reader’s mind as the overall narrative of the writer’s life took shape. The balance the author found between the raw emotions these events evoked within himself and the narrative approach to these poems made this collection feel so alive and passionate in its delivery. 

The Verdict

A heartfelt, heartbreaking, and engaging collection of poetry, author AE Hines’s “Any Dumb Animal” is a must-read book of 2021! The narrative quality of the poetry and the way the author was able to relay something so personal to himself and make it relatable to the reader as well as incredible to see unfold. I felt myself tearing up as the author’s words pierced my heart and I felt his pain, making this a true one-of-a-kind story that everyone should read for themselves. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

AE Hines (he/him) grew up in rural North Carolina and currently resides in Portland, Oregon. His poetry has been widely published in anthologies and literary journals including I-70 Review, Sycamore Review, Tar River Poetry, Potomac Review, Atlanta Review, Crosswinds Poetry Journal and Crab Creek Review. He is winner of the Red Wheelbarrow Prize and has been a finalist for the Montreal International Poetry Prize. He is currently pursuing his MFA in Writing at Pacific University. Follow him on TwitterFacebookInstagram.