Cover Image: Instructions for Traveling West

Instructions for Traveling West

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Member Reviews

"The last time I felt lucky was in fifth grade and my teacher was giving away a goldfish. She put all our names in a hat and miraculously drew mine. I was so excited, I cried. The fish only lived two weeks but, I loved him. It was years before I realized my teacher likely rigged the draw. Moments before, she had, in fact, whispered rather conspiratorially, that it just might be my lucky day. I was such a lonely kid and having a hell of a time adapting to the U.S. after living abroad and I think Mrs. Edelstein figured I could use a win. Of course the universe is full of deep magic, but I think most miracles can be traced back to someone’s profound and quiet kindness."

This collection of poems beautiful, thought-provoking, deeply emotional and full of joy. It was honest and raw. Each time I read something that makes me feel less alone in the world, I am grateful for the bravery of the author to share a piece of themselves in a way that reminds us that we are all connected and suffering and joyful together.

"What curses us are rarely witches. Instead, it’s the stories the shape of someone else’s fear."

There's so much beauty in these poems, so much rawness and honesty. Regardless of where you are in your journey to self, I am confident you will find something here that resonates with you.

"In the Office We wear thin armor, as if approaching war. During a meeting, a man explains why his ideas are good, perhaps brilliant. The days rifle past, full of paper cuts, nerves, and filing cabinets. The copier, a monstrosity, glares in the corner and waits to break. In the lobby, there is enough sugar to kill a horse. At the company party, the receptionist gets drunk and begins to weep. We sneak our joy in slices—on holidays and weekends, sandwiched between calendars and PTO. Vacations smear at the edges. Traffic eats us like ants. Work-life balance, someone says. Outside, our lives ring, unanswered."

Here's to answering the call of our lives.

with gratitude to Random House and netgalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review

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Joy is a delight. I started following her on Instagram and fell in love with her poetry there. This book did not disappoint. It is beautiful and well worth a read. Savor it!

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AHHHHHHH! Joy Sullivan is a linguistic genius, and I'm obsessed. I am so thankful to Dial Press, Joy Sullivan, and Netgalley for granting me advanced digital access to this gorgeous collection of prose and poetry before it's scheduled to be published on April 9, 2024.

Sullivan pens narratives on how being homesick before she even finds her home, homesick for memories so simple and innocent and pure and wishing she knew better as a young girl. She writes about ways to cure a broken heart through every phase of each breakage and even provides instructions for healing one's soul at every decade of your life. I was transported throughout every page and wanted more and more as I read.

I am now a Joy Sullivan fan and can't wait to see what else she puts out.

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This lovely poetry book is the book I'd been searching for. Beautiful poems about life and travel. Most of them evoked intense feelings and evoked beautiful images.

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This collection was stunning. Thank you Netgalley for the advance read. I felt so many emotions while reading this. Sullivan captured nostalgia in a bottle, right back to my own childhood. Her words made me want to live and to cherish the soft moments. I found her imagery and language captivating and surprising. I can’t wait to hold a copy in my hands and devour it again and again.

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This was a very emotional and captivating read. I really connected to several of the poems in the collection. Some of the stand out ones were "Duck","Luck 1","When My Friend is Low We Walk By The River", and "Even If." This is a collection I will be adding to my shelves as it's a collection I can really see myself coming back to over time. I highly recommend this as I feel there is something for everyone.

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Joy Sullivan reflects on the fever dream that is girlhood, contends with her Christian upbringing, grapples with aging as a woman, and ends it all with hope. Nature in all her tragedy and splendor are celebrated, and the tone is consistently feminine and feminist.

Despite the obvious love poured into this work, I recognize that I may not have been the target audience and, therefore, was not moved in the way I am often affected by poetry. Maybe someday I will find a need to reckon with these same ideas and will return to be joyfully comforted.

Thank you, Joy Sullivan, for sharing your heart and hopes, and thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.

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Thank you NetGalley for this ARC, Instructions for Traveling West by Joy Sullivan.
I really enjoyed this poetry collection and it's message of self-discovery through all the journeys we take in life. I love finding a poet who is so deeply feeling to their surroundings, and so deeply moved by every path they experience, who can eloquently translate that to a page.
That is what Joy Sullivan has captured here.
I loved it.

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Thanks to NetGalley and Random House For the ARC!

I was silenced by the opening poem in Joy Sullivan’s "Instructions for Traveling West," and the remainder of the book kept me equally enraptured.

“Enraptured” is a ridiculous, excessive, embarrassing, genuine word, but it’s the kind of praise that this book invites.

There are many poetry collections about migration as a path to the self, often with the severity of an emergency evacuation, desperate to escape from something. What makes "Instructions for Traveling West" so unique is that it takes the road trip approach. These are poems that call the reader to rest in the pleasure of experience. They are marked by the sepia-toned, film-grained warmth of memory as Sullivan celebrates all the ragged edges of love.

There’s so much here about how our ordinary preoccupations gradually take on the symbolic weight of metaphor. The problem is not a “wrong nose,” but rather what it represents. A berry-stained shirt is more than a berry-stained shirt precisely because it is only a berry-stained shirt. Periodically, these metaphors tilt into the saccharine, but it doesn’t matter—they feel courageous in their desire to be earnest.

There’s some interesting theological heft here too, as Sullivan’s midwestern Christian background shapes many of these pieces. They are poems where the desire for God causes the speaker to leave God, not out of hedonism, but because earthly, sensorial pleasures resonate as closer to the divine than the casual cruelty of a youth pastor. The book’s interlude, “Westward, a Woman Walks” is one of the most startlingly effective uses of Biblical iconography I’ve seen in poetry, both honoring it and interrogating it to ultimately extend it. It’s rare to see an outgrown faith with nostalgia rather than bitterness, which makes Sullivan’s perspective feel uniquely grace-filled.

If there are any critiques to be made, I think some of the poems in “Give Grief Her Own Lullaby” feel a bit untethered from their predecessors and successors, perhaps a bit less focused. This may be intentional, though, as these pieces seem to shift from ambition to contentment in grief. The speaker seems more settled in herself, and her experience is characterized more by its breadth than before. Additionally, many of these poems are mid-pandemic reflections, and they don’t have the lucidity of hindsight.

Regardless, as the collection moves into its final section, “Remind Yourself, Joy is Not a Trick,” the euphoric thrum of the book reaches its full fruition, and by the closing lines of the final poem, I was in tears and amazed at how effectively Joy Sullivan invites readers into her journey westward.

I’m so excited to re-read this in the future and share it with others.

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I really enjoyed this. I always love poetry and this was a great collection.
Sullivan makes mangos sound so delicious.
I also love the cover.

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It’s been a while since I’ve read poetry, but I’ve always loved reading and writing it.
Joy writes with effortless passion, wit, depth, and understanding.
I enjoyed some sections of the book more then others, but as a whole this is a beautiful collection.
Thank you NetGalley for the ARC.

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Beautiful. Flawless. 10 out of 10. No notes.

These words have made me smile and cry. Have made me feel unsure and so completely understood. I cannot wait to have the physical book in my hands, and to buy one for every woman I know.

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I really struggle to get into poetry but I wanted to give this one a fair shot. It didn’t speak to me, but it might speak to someone who likes the genre more. I did like that it was a quick read. I also liked the part about the culture shock between Africa and Ohio.

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It was the title of this book that grabbed me. I enjoyed the beginning of the book, but then somewhere along the way, the prose changed into things I did not understand. Yes, I know it is poetry with a poetic license, but just did not touch me. Although I love the title. I thank NetGalley and Random House Publishing for the advance read.

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I enjoyed most of the poems...but after a bit they got a bit repetitive. I thought the premise of the collection would be interesting, but personally a lot of them did not resonate with me. This is nothing against Instructions for Traveling West, but just my personal opinion.

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This book is like a conversation with an old friend from out of town- warm, generous, funny, and fresh. The author's associative logic captured me so quickly. Phrases like "exhausted citrus" or "rusty seabirds" offered a retreat from daily life.

It’s retrospective air feels familiar but tells tales of things you’ve never seen - fruits you’ve never savored. Lush descriptions of mangos and tropical fruit hover on the pages. But there is also the familiar, farm lands in Ohio, rainy trails in Oregon woods.

And just like that friend from out town, after the conversation finishes you’ll be left with a glow, yet also know why you can’t fit all the puzzle pieces of your life together anymore- those aren’t your pieces, that’s not your game. It’s a tremor that shakes, and dusts off your heart, ready for next. "...the future is now full of doors I won't walk through." Thankfully, the book is formatted in sections that help move from upending the safety and sentimentality of society's agreed on shape of success to something more specific, etching a more personal way of encountering love and loss and aging. I love the momentum of the finish of this book of poetry so much, especially Sullivan's invitation to "Rise like a stupid miracle flung upon some sun-fragrant rock, shocked and land-hungry." It's dynamic in that way.

While it's easy to assume from the title of this book might follow the format of instructional self-helpy books that wrap themselves in lyrical prose but really have a dogmatic formula that this might be more of the same, that assumption is far from true. Instead, Sullivan does an expert job of show not tell. She explores many universal internal conflicts, of leaving lovers, of driving towards a place hoping for it to connect you with reality, of body shame or lack of connection for sure. But her exploration of them through her own beautiful analysis invites the reader to do the same. It's as if she breadcrumbed a path out of the woods of confusion for the reader with these dynamic lines. By focusing her gaze on the questions not the answers her writing avoids the pedagogy of many current writers. Lines such as "who whispered that your soul's monarch was dead?" invite questioning by a reader. I had to read this in small bites occasionally, to savor these lines.

I will definitely be counting down the days until I have a hard copy (I've already pre-ordered it). I'm sure the hard copy will soon be as dog eared and highlighted as my copies of Plath and Dickenson.

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I think that this was perhaps the greatest poetry collection I have ever read.

When I was in high school, an early poetry reader and aspiring writer, I became obsessed with the book “Between You and These Bones”. I did not feel fulfilled with my own writing and poetry career until I could hold my best piece up beside my favourite from that book and say; “yes, this is the standard I have been working towards”. I fear that this book may be the equivalent of that in my adult life. I also fear that I will never be able to have such a relationship with words and my own thoughts that I could conceive a book so effortlessly all-encompassing, warm-blooded, and glittering as this. Questioning your understanding of love? Religion? A woman’s choice whether or not to have children? The British Monarchy? This book will cure you. There is something so sharp and visceral about it, but I also feel so comforted and understood. I haven’t recognized myself in poetry in a long time, and this book has put the breath back into my lungs as both as writer and a reader. What an incredible anthology.

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I was so excited to have been offered an ARC of Instructions for Travelling West, and it certainly didn’t disappoint, Joy has a way of writing that cracks all your ribs open but when you think you’ll then find pain you just find a cathartic ache.
Her writing is beautiful, Tomatoes is probably my favourite. I don’t know how she distills down human emotions and feelings into the lines of a poem but she does it so well. A book I shall buy for my shelf!

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A deeply intimate collection of poems about love, loss, self-discovery, disappointment, identity, fear, loneliness, and so much more, even the global climate crisis.

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I enjoyed reading this book. Part 5 of the book was one of favorite sections. I will say that some of the poems were a bit more of vignettes, but I loved it. The pieces about religion were interesting. As always some poems were relatable while others were not. Overall, I enjoyed reading this book an HD look forward to reading big more of Joy Sullivan’s work.

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