soft magic

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 22 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

soft magic. by Upile Chisala: The beginning of this poetry collection had me worried, but it got better. The style is very minimalistic, instagram-poetry as I've heard it described as. It is about being black, family, love, it's meant to empower. It's not that I don't like this style, it is just harder to convey powerful pictures with so few words and make it somewhat unique. I don't think this collection quite manages it. The message is definitely great, and I think those who pick it up and is looking for that empowerment will like it just as "milk and honey" has been loved. It's an easy read, good to get people into poetry. 3/5 stars.  I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, thank you.
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Very interesting title. I downloaded the book as the title and author seemed interesting and worthy of reading time but unfortunately couldn't read the book as it was a protected file.
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A mixture of really strong points and a few poems that I could’ve done without. I will say, out of the poetry I have read so far in 2019, this is my favorite..but even this one left me wanting a bit more.
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This is my favorite poetry I've read so far in 2019. My favorite part of these poems is the power that they tell and show us about. From women to skin color this book covers it all without putting anyone down. This is the first book I've read by Upile Chisala and I can't wait to read more because I enjoyed the way these words made me feel, made me think, you know that it's good writing when that happens. Like many poetry books I wrote down many lines and even a full poem here are there. One of my favorite lines is "I hope to do with words what dancers do with limbs." and I just love that line. There is something about that. how worlds and limbs are the same while turning them both into something to entertain people, just inspires me. 

With that said, words have powers and Upile Chisala uses them in a positive light, that's a powerful thing.
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This was my first time reading Upile Chisala's work. I really wanted to love this book, but it fell short for me. 

The first section, which focuses primarily on Blackness, self-love and empowerment, is the strongest by far; the poems are simple, enjoyable to read and a true celebration of Black women. I worry, however, that even the strongest section will not stick around in my memory. After the first section, the collection unraveled for me. Many pieces felt like filler and very few stood out to me as highlights.

Overall, I did not find soft magic particularly memorable and I'm unlikely to recommend it to others.
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Full disclosure, I am not the intended audience for this book. I appreciated much that was in here, but I know it wasn't for me.

Though I appreciate brevity, I find that many poems that are as short as these feel incomplete, and read more like status updates. There are many pieces in this book that are able to capture incredible truths in a few lines, but there are many more that feel as if they fall short of that.

I know that part of my failure to fully connect with some pieces lies in my gender... These are not my truths, not my experiences, wonderfully worded as hey may be.
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Short & powerful poetry that really hit me in the heart. quite a few pieces really hit home & I absolutely loved them. Chisala writes about love, blackness, strength, fighting & finding yourself, and spirituality. there is bound to be something the resonates with just about everyone. An all around wonderful collection.
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This beautiful poetry collection is about self-love, power, depression, relationships, and understanding. It is geared toward women and perhaps teens or young adults of color. The words Chisala chooses are as beautiful as the ideas she aims to express. I recommend this book for poetry lovers. I suspect readers of color will find themselves seen and heard on these pages, and white readers can see the need for inclusive and “own voices” writing.
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These are great poems! I loved every one of them at least a bit, and that's all I look for when I read poetry. 

I highly recommend this book!
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I'm not gonna lie, I went into this collection with a low expectations. The first two arc's I received were very disappointing and I wasn't expecting this to be very different. I am so glad I was proven wrong.

I'll be the first to say that while I did enjoy this collection, this poetry is not for me. That's fine, not everything has be geared towards white people. This book is very much so a celebration of not only blackness, but dark skin. 

It also talks about relationships and depression in ways that are beautiful and poignant- how you don't need a someone to be whole, how your sadness isn't a weakness. She says so much in so few words. 

I was highly moved by this and would recommend it to anyone.
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I’d never heard of this poet before. I really enjoyed Soft Magic. The poems don’t have titles. This is a small thing and maybe some people don’t mind but I prefer poems to have titles. It’s a ‘me’ thing and has no bearing on the enjoyment and quality of the poems. I read this collection very quickly as the poems are very short and brief, no more than half a dozen lines. I wouldn’t let their briefness full you as the words pack quite a punch at times. Universal themes are explored with an emotional touch that it heavier than it seems. Many of the poems explore blackness. These were deep and powerful but as a white woman I couldn’t relate as much as I could the other poems. Soft Magic is well worth a read.
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I've been thinking a lot about poetry lately. What does it mean to write poetry? What does it mean to be a poet? What makes a poem? 

Many of my fellow English majors would argue that a poem is defined by form, structure, and meter; however, in recent years, there have been many exciting things happening in the world of poetry. The world is starting to listen to the voices of poets from diverse backgrounds. Space is being made in the poetry world for women, people of color, and people from other groups that have been historically marginalized.

In many ways, I am a classicist. But I am also a rebel. I love this new movement in poetry and I loved this collection by Upile Chasala. I was fascinated by what she could do with only a handful of words. I have a soft spot for poetry that empowers women, especially women of color, so I realize that I might be biased, but for me, Chisala's words were incredibly uplifting and empowering.

I'm not sure exactly what makes a poem. Is it rhyme? Is it meter?  -Or is it passion?

Chisala's work is tightly knit and most certainly has structure (many argue that the key thing that separates poetry from prose is that poetry has structure). It is clear that Chisala has carefully considered every single well placed word. Her writing slices directly to the heart and taps into a history of oppression that has been silenced for too long.

I have a colleague whose favorite quote is, "Well behaved women rarely make history." Chisala's writing causes us to confront the history of colonization and oppression which many of us take for granted. Nevertheless, instead of being angry when talking about these issues, Chisala's voice comes across as clear, powerful, and comforting.

This is a book that I plan on rereading in the future. I also plan to go out and purchase her other book, Nectar. I want to know more about what this fierce lady poet has to say to our world today.

I strongly recommend this book for fans of modern poetry, especially if you enjoy reading underrepresented voices.

*Note: I received a free digital copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. If you would like to see more reviews about diverse books like this one, please check out my blog at
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"I am Flawed. Still, I am worthy. Still, I am mighty. Still, I deserve good"

Upile Chisala, with soft magic, brings us a collection of poems and prose so beautiful that you hardly notice anything but the feelings it brings to you. 

"When you are offered thin love, 
don't take it just because you have thick skin
and someone told you that woman must endure

Love, the only kind that counts, is wholesome."

From poems about and to dark skinned woman, about love - required and not, about and to woman. We feel along the lines that we shouldn't settle, we should be proud, we should love! Ourselves and others! That we need to fight, that it isn't easy to fight, but that it is something we need! Fight with ourselves, fight with the world, for the good of it, for the love. 

"I write you poems because God spoke the universe into existence,
so don't ever let me hear you say that words are just words,
that words don't leave a mark, 
make a change,
create where once was nothing"
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This is a decent collection — a couple of the poems really resonated with me — but overall, I found it somewhat underwhelming.

Chisala is unapologetically black, though, and that really shines through her words. I love that!
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“Get in the habit of celebrating yourself
from skin to marrow.
You are magic.” – Upile Chisala

The theme of magic was laced throughout the collection and carried a unique atmosphere. The words flowed with a certain softness that made me think of a soothing lullaby. Although this collection had some great pieces, I didn’t feel very involved or moved. I love all forms of poetry and prose, and I respect the poet’s choice of what works for them. But with Soft Magic most of the poems read more like random thoughts, most only two sentences long.

I like simplistic pieces, but reading an entire collection of them was not as fulfilling as I would have liked. Because the poems were short, there was no time to get involved or let words sink in. I would read a poem, get the message and then continue. There weren’t enough content to make my mind linger or emotions to develop.

I did enjoy the collection overall and a few of the poems (phrases?) did stick with me. I recommend SOFT MAGIC to readers who like modern poetry and minimalistic writing styles. With that said, I think a lot of people will relate and love this collection.
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Chisala's work is a celebration for and of women/persons of color. It is very heartfelt and uplifting. It invites readers to look within and to love the skin they are born with.
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This collection was written melodically for the current time of modern poetry.  Short and sweet. Though it is not my preferred type of poetry, the writing was well done.
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Absolutely stunning poetry. I was punched in the gut, taught a lesson, and made to feel powerful.
Deep. Raw. Real. Inspiring. Read soft magic!!

I received my copy of soft magic from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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"I want to think that God smiles
when a black woman is brave enough
to love herself."

I don't say this lightly when I say that soft magic. is my favorite collection of poetry I have read in years. It is powerful, and brave, and loving, and comforting, and flawless. I want to paper my walls with every page of this collection. There's nothing I can even say that Upile Chisala couldn't say a million times better, so instead of reviewing this, I'm just going to leave you with a few of my favorite poems and let them speak for themselves:

"Little boys with sunshine in their giggles are being
mistaken for men
Because their bodies were built like those
of warriors."


"If no one has called you brave lately, I will.
You are fighting sadness with everything you've
got and for that you are mighty."


gather up all the hurt in your body
and tell it how you weren't meant for broken."
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There's so much to like here. A lot about black being beautiful and self-worth and spirituality and healing. Many of the poems are beautiful even if you don't relate to them personally.

I am not at all religious and I still adore this:
"I write you poems because God spoke the universe
into existence,
so don't ever let me hear you say that words are
just words,
that words don't leave a mark,
make a change,
create where once was nothing."

There is a problem I see in a lot of poetry collections, though, which is that a good amount of what's in here is filler. One or two line poems (and I'm not saying something that length can't be beautiful) that don't add to the collection as a whole and don't say anything new or original and I GET THAT not everything can be original but I don't like a 130 page book where 70 pages are unnecessary. To me. Unnecessary to me. It's subjective. What isn't? Maybe one of the two line poems made someone's entire day and that's great it's just not for me.

My favorite:
"He says that

I add distance to distance
and am the reason why the ocean feels infinitely wide
time differences and seasons are all contraptions of my hands,
because I am trying to prove that I can break his heart
again and again
from thousands of miles away
and still be the girl of his dreams."

*Thanks so much to NetGalley and the publisher for access to this collection in exchange for an honest review*
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