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soft magic.

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soft magic. is the debut collection of prose and poetry by Malawian writer, Upile Chisala. This book explores the self, joy, blackness, gender, matters of the heart, the experience of Diaspora, spirituality and most of all, how we survive. soft magic. is a shared healing journey.

122 pages, Kindle Edition

First published September 4, 2015

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Upile Chisala

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5 stars
1,180 (36%)
4 stars
992 (30%)
3 stars
747 (23%)
2 stars
245 (7%)
1 star
74 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 494 reviews
Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,662 reviews5,143 followers
January 7, 2019
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.

All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to Andrews McMeel Publishing for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Nat.
555 reviews3,179 followers
June 5, 2020

soft magic.  is the debut collection of prose and poetry by Malawian writer, Upile Chisala. This book explores the self, joy, blackness, gender, matters of the heart, the experience of Diaspora, spirituality and most of all, how we survive.  soft magic.  is a shared healing journey.

I so crave that feeling poetry collections evoke in my reading experience, so stumbling across soft magic. was, well, magic.

I do have to note that the tiny amount of poems that feature aimless, filler poetry lines derailed the epic scope of the ones that shine so brightly. But I want to focus on those adoring pieces, mainly concerning love and knowing your self-worth.

soft magic 1-- bookspoils

soft magic 7-- bookspoils

soft magic 2-- bookspoils
Life and death in the hands of the tongue.

soft magic 3-- bookspoils

soft magic 4-- bookspoils

soft magic 5-- bookspoils

soft magic 6-- bookspoils
It was well worth reading through this whole collection just to reach this one poem.

As well as this great follow-up:

soft magic 10-- bookspoils

soft magic 8-- bookspoils

soft magic 9-- bookspoils

Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 09.46.55

I never tire of discovering well-written and memorable poetry collections and the featured pieces in soft magic. are one for the books.


Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying soft magic.just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

This review and more can be found on my blog.
Profile Image for leynes.
1,103 reviews2,954 followers
January 14, 2022
This poetry collection is my first read of the year. My actual first read of the year (so the book I picked up on January 1) is Bleak House by Charles Dickens, but since that is a 1000+page tome, I decided to mix it up with some poetry.

All in all, my opinion of this book hasn't changed. Upile Chisala's style of short poems (often only 1-2 sentences) doesn't work for me. I don't see the "magic" in them. The ones about love and relationship were most annoying because they came across as pretentious and hallow.

However, this time around I purposefully took more time to read this. In 2020, I had read it on Kindle in 30 minutes, and so now I wanted to soak everything in. I read this collection over the past five days, with only reading one section of the collection (around 20 pages) each day. I also took heavy notes for each poem and annotated as much as I could.

On my reread, I definitely noticed how structured the whole collection is. The first section – which is BY FAR the strongest – focuses on female empowerement and what it means to be Black, the second on love and loving, the third on battling depression and being kind to yourself (putting yourself first), the fourth on unrequited love and toxic relationships, and the fifth is a blend of the previous themes with the motif of "softness" being in the foreground.

I would only recommend this collection to people who enjoy insta poetry, short poems and/or positive affirmations. For anyone who might be interested in the subject matter but prefers longer and more complex poetry, I'd highly recommend checking out the works of Danez Smith, Warsan Shire and Safia Elhillo.

I made a super pretty and aesthetically pleasing video out of this review, so if you would rather look at some beautiful pictures and listen to my soothing voice (lol) instead of reading this review, check out my video! <3

So, after watching yet another lovely video by Diana (from the channel diana in colour, please check her out!), I decided to pick up soft magic. by Upile Chisala. Diana warmly recommended this poetry collection about Black female self-love and desire and since I found the Kindle version for free, I downloaded it and read it in one go. Upile is a storyteller, sociologist and activist from Malawi. She is the author of three books of poetry. Born in 1994 and raised in Zomba, Upile's hope is to tell stories from the margins and through her work help others and herself come to terms with pasts, celebrate presents and confidently dream beautiful futures.

Unfortunately, this poetry collection wasn't really for me. Stylistically, it is very similar to Rupi Kaur's Milk and Honey, so Upile writes very short poems that consist of simple sentences or fragments. I know a lot of people love this style (...often coined 'Insta Poetry') so this collection might be for you. Just like in Milk and Honey there were, of course, a couple of poems that I enjoyed but overall, the collection was too fleeting for me and didn't leave a lasting impression. Nonetheless, I would like to leave you with a selection of poems, so that you can decide whether or not you want to read the collection yourself:
I am dripping in melanin and honey.
I am black without apology.

people who only wish to stifle your bloom,
do not belong in your garden.

to the girl at battle with her body,
I pray you find a place to lay your weapons down.

to the men who act like they were the first to ever
love a dark girl,
I will say
'I have loved this skin since before you breathed on it'

here we are,
black and in love with ourselves
and they spite us for it.

you are the answer to a prayer I was too proud
to pray
So, as you can see, Upile's style is very similar to the style of other insta poets. And again, whilst I find some of these sentences and the feelings they evoke beautiful, I still have a hard time seeing them as poetry. Don't get me wrong, I wholeheartedly embrace the notion that poetry can have different forms, but for me, personally, poetry has to evoke images, has to play with language, has to use the aesthetic qualities of language to get its meaning across. And therefore, I have a hard time with insta poetry, and its very straight-forward messages and ordinary sentences. Nonetheless, I loved the theme of this collection. Self-love is such an important thing, especially for Black womxn who are told by society from a young age that they are not desirable, that they are not beautiful, that they don't fit the ideal. So, it's definitely a topic I would like to read more about. I'm thinking of picking up The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love.

What surprised me about soft magic. were the few poems that were not about self-love, but more political. I thought these were actually quite brilliant and among my favourites in the whole collection. Upile writes about how, similarly to Black girls (who are often sexualised from a young age and expected to be strong and take it all), young Black boys are denied their childhood by being seen as and treated like grown men. There are many studies to back this up: Black boys are viewed as older and less innocent than whites.

Black boys as young as 10 may not be viewed in the same light of childhood innocence as their white peers, but are instead more likely to be mistaken as older, be perceived as guilty and face police violence if accused of a crime, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association (researchers tested 176 police officers, mostly white males, average age 37, in large urban areas, to determine their levels of two distinct types of bias — prejudice and unconscious dehumanization of black people).
Little boys with sunshine in their giggles
are being mistaken for men
because their bodies were built like those of

(for the moon-high baby boys of color who are
still growing into their warrior bones. You are little.
You are loved.)
The study also involved 264 mostly white, female undergraduate students from large public U.S. universities. In one experiment, students rated the innocence of people ranging from infants to 25-year-olds who were black, white or an unidentified race. The students judged children up to 9 years old as equally innocent regardless of race, but considered black children significantly less innocent than other children in every age group beginning at age 10, the researchers found.

The students were also shown photographs alongside descriptions of various crimes and asked to assess the age and innocence of white, black or Latino boys ages 10 to 17. The students overestimated the age of blacks by an average of 4.5 years and found them more culpable than whites or Latinos, particularly when the boys were matched with serious crimes, the study found.
this sacred blackness
this blessed blackness!
has become a sentence
had become offense
so when black blood bleeds it is minor
it is commonplace
it is expected.
so when black blood bleeds.
a system doesn't cry.
So, these poems were incredibly powerful to me and made my whole reading experience worth-while. Again, her style is not really for me but if you thought that some of these poems were beautiful, get your hands on this collection ASAP. It's so important to support young Black poets. They're the future. <3
Profile Image for Romie.
1,075 reviews1,271 followers
January 18, 2021
I feel like I've just been hugged by the softest blanket. but I also feel as if someone took a part of my heart and transcribed it in these pages (4.5)
Profile Image for Darkowaa.
166 reviews369 followers
December 8, 2017
!!! REVIEW - https://africanbookaddict.com/2017/05...
This was a decent collection, Upile has done well.
It was quite healing and self-helpish, which isn't bad. It could have used more editing- the typos were annoying to spot. And some poems felt like a knock off from 'salt.' (Nayyirah Waheed's collection) - just being honest here lol. But I loved how very pro-black this collection was. Its black A F.

Fave poems:
"being this ebony.
having this name.
carrying this language in my mouth.
there were times when I only wanted
to blend in
to sit unnoticed,
but blending in is fading out"


"here we are,
black and in love with ourselves
and they spite us for it"
Profile Image for  Naqelle .
85 reviews36 followers
November 26, 2017
5 Stars
“I am dripping melanin and honey. I am black without apology.”
Title: Soft Magic
Author: Upile Chisala
Genre: Poetry

I was really exited to read this book from Upile, First of all the cover is beautiful and the title just spoke to me. This book had great themes of poetry like being proud of the skin that you are in,love and happiness. Upile really dropped some great gems in this book that will stay with me forever This book was a great and easy read and I will be reading more from this author anytime she puts any thing out.

“it is when we don't believe we are enough for ourselves
that we start looking for people to drown in.”
Profile Image for alexia.
280 reviews59 followers
April 24, 2022
“too many of us are oceans with lovers that never learnt to swim.”
Profile Image for Glitterbomb.
204 reviews
June 14, 2018
An inspirational collection, and one I thoroughly recommend.

Full review to come
Profile Image for Fiderly.
15 reviews305 followers
February 7, 2017
This was beautifully written
My favorite part of this poetry collection:

1. Do not accept the love of a man who makes you feel small, the universe is already so vast. 2. You are innately beautiful and completely irreplaceable. 3. You don’t have to go far to find love and validation, start from within. 4. Boys are boys and men are mean, tell them apart. 5. Be alone often, as you are, but don’t that turn into loneliness. 6. Remember to remain gentle. 7. Don’t stay angry at the world too long. Seek out life in little things and move past sadness. 8. Touch somebody, with your hands or with your heart, with your words or with your silence. Share yourself. 9. Celebrate your skin. 10. Be yourself and never apologize for being someone you love.
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,297 reviews2,295 followers
October 20, 2020
'I am dripping melanin and honey.
I am black without apology.'

I loved reading this collection.
Sometimes it's hard hitting. Sometimes it's just mundane lines of giving advice to young girls. Some lines are just about taking caution when it comes to men and boys.

I specifically liked the lines about the empowerment of women.

I just didn't feel it as lines written solely for the black women.

Enjoyed reading it.
July 15, 2020
Upile Chisala traz nesse livro uma coletânea de poemas intensos e que me tocaram profundamente. Ela trata diversos temas, que são únicos em si mesmo, mas que também são fortemente interligados. Acredito que o tema geral do livro seja o amor próprio e dentro dele ela vai recortando vários aspectos: o amor pelo seu corpo; o amor que você deve manter por você mesma dentro de um relacionamento e, por isso, não aceitar migalhas; a luta diária contra a tristeza e a depressão; a forca da mulher negra e como ela deve dar valor a tudo que ela é!

Esse livro é escrito em forma de poemas modernos, curtos e muito tocantes!

Acompanhe minhas impressões diárias de leitura no meu Instagram! ☺️
September 12, 2019
Me: *looks at book synopsis*
Ooh, a poetry book about black women and female empowerment? YES
*actually reads the book*
Also me: I should have known better than to expect that this would be groundbreaking when this is the kind of poetry that sells. Sigh.
Profile Image for Leah Rachel von Essen.
1,203 reviews160 followers
April 18, 2017
Upile Chisala’s longer poems within soft magic. are her best. They float with the support of hard details, of dialogue, of character in the background, of sensory detail. Her poem listing the foods she uses to try and find home in the supermarket is one of these; another is the poem that begins “sometimes I eat poems / late at night,” or “He has found galaxies.” Or the ones that hold within them one-liners from a grandmother or mother, dialogue that tears and hurts, that hits home. Chisala finds her voice with these longer or dialogue-driven poems that seem to have detail-driven depth behind them. They stun and smoke with emotion, filling the reader with poetry like a cloud.

Where Chisala struggles is the smaller poems. Many are a bit bland—one-liners of advice to a second-person audience that are a bit over-used in the volume of poetry, while the longer, more-involved poems are more spread out. I never really like exclamation points in poetry, and her use didn’t convince me; most of the poems with them included came off to me as a bit forced. But overall, the longer poems made this volume more than worth it, for the gems that are hidden within.
Profile Image for Nafisa.
85 reviews74 followers
December 15, 2020
even though this wasn't particularly my favorite type of poetry collection however this also stands out from a lot of others because it was quite empowering and comforting.
Profile Image for Dulce .
204 reviews
December 27, 2020
Hasta me da pena porque entiendo la intención de este libro pero es que los poemas son muy meh, parecen publicaciones que harías en Tumblr, solo hubo como 3 que de verdad me gustaron y me parecieron buenos
Profile Image for Adelina Levărdă.
82 reviews13 followers
February 14, 2021
It was short but some parts were really well done, I could feel the power. Beautiful simple poems.🤍

*changing my rating to 5⭐*
815 reviews89 followers
January 22, 2022
“here you are,
black and woman and in love with yourself.
you are terrifying.
they are terrified.
(as they should be)”

this was so much better than the first time i read it. possibly because it's extended. possibly because i'm older and maturing. i've always adored this book and related to it. the tenderness, the pride, the blackness, the power. finding power and strength and depth in yourself and vulnerabilities. all of it. the pure intensity of self-love and just being soft with yourself and living with your black girl magic. embracing it wholeheartedly and cherishing it. this book is outstanding.
Profile Image for Debbie .
238 reviews104 followers
March 4, 2019
"sometimes it feels like I dreamt you up
like I closed my eyes and created you."
Profile Image for stefiereads.
310 reviews118 followers
December 29, 2019
A lovely collection of poem that talks about feminism, women, love and life. It is empowering and I truly enjoy it. This collection is a modern poetry collection in a style that is very popular now, but I'd say that Soft Magic is pretty stand out because of the way she wrote the poems :) I recommend for you to pick it up.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 494 reviews

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