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Breathe. Breathe.

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Breathe. Breathe. is a collection of dark poetry and short fiction exploring the surreal depths of humanity. It’s a representation of how life breaks us apart and words put us back together. Purged onto the pages, dark emotions flow, urging readers into murky seas and grim forests, to the fine line between breathing and death.
In Act One, readers are presented with a serial killer in Victorian London, a lighthouse keeper with an eerie legacy, a murderous spouse that seems to have walked right out of a mystery novel, and a treacherous Japanese lady who wants to stay immortal. The heightened fears in the twilight of your minds will seep into the blackest of your nights, where you have to breathe in rhythm to stay alive.
In Act Two, the poetry turns more internal and pierces through the wall of denial and pain, bringing visceral emotions to the surface unleashing traumas such as domestic abuse, violence, and illness.
In the short stories, you’ll meet residents of Valhalla Lane whose lives are on a violent parallel track to collision, a man who is driven mad by the sound of a woodpecker, a teenage girl who wakes up on the beach and can’t find another soul in sight, a woman caught in a time shift pitting her against the Egyptian goddess Anuket, and a little girl whose whole world changes when her favorite dandelion yellow crayon is discontinued.
Amid these pages the haunting themes of oppression, isolation, revenge, and madness unfold through folklore, nightmares, and often times, raw, impulsive passion crafted to sear from the inside out.
With a touching foreword by the Bram Stoker nominated author Brian Kirk, Breathe. Breathe. will at times unsettle you, and at times embrace you. Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, a veteran writer and editor of the written word, offers up a mixed set of pieces, identifying her as a strong, new voice in dark fiction that will tear the heart from your chest, all the while reminding you to breathe.

177 pages, Kindle Edition

First published September 1, 2017

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Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

12 books75 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 47 reviews
Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,625 reviews5,067 followers
February 9, 2020
I love a good poetry collection, but I haven't found one in a while that could make me feel as much as Erin's writing did.

Just remember, when the pain rises to the surface, don't forget to breathe.

These poems and short stories are not for the faint of heart. The poetry comes from a very raw place in Erin's history, and you can feel her bleeding on the pages as she writes, but as someone who's been there, too? The catharsis and sisterhood I felt here was powerful. I alternated between wanting to hug her and wanting someone to hug me. There's a lot of talk about abuse here, in varying methods, and there's a lot of rage and hopelessness, but there are bright spots, too.

Until one night, the fireflies blink in unison, like small beacons.

Though so much of Erin's writing resonated with me, one poem in particular that just grabbed my heart and squeezed so tightly was The Society of the Fireflies, which she says she wrote for her daughter, Emma. It starts off in a dark, painful place, but gradually brightens as the misery is washed away. I don't know if I'm projecting here, but I'll tell anyone, any time, that my son's entry into the world made all the hurt that came before him fuzzy and grey. It sounds dramatic, I know, but it's true; there's so much love in my heart now, it doesn't seem like there's as much room for hate and hurt as there once was, and as Erin wrote about those fireflies, I couldn't help but feel like she was saying she understood me, mother to mother.

Breathing is not as simple as you think.

After the poetry, there are a few short stories, and my favorite of these was the episodic collection of tales that take place on Valhalla Lane, where abuse victims gradually bubble over with rage and hurt until they lash out. I know the author's note at the end ensured the reader that Erin doesn't condone repaying violence with violence, and I'm with her, but I won't pretend I don't enjoy watching a survivor take karma into their own hands every now and then.

Altogether, Breathe. Breathe. is a fantastic collection of poems and stories, and—at risk of sounding cheesy—is a real breath of fresh air. Erin shows a natural talent for writing, and I am so appreciative of the way she bared her soul to the world in her work here.
Profile Image for Leo Robertson.
Author 35 books432 followers
February 7, 2018
I'm glad to see this book has done so well, and that so many people have started their reviews with "I don't normally read poetry, but..."

I'd agree: I don't normally read poetry either. Wait, that's not true: I'm a Horror Sleaze Trash subscriber, I enjoy Johnny Scarlotti's work, Arthur Graham's, Pyre Publishing's E.Z.P.Zine, and recently picked up Nekorb by Haley Jenkins of Selcouth Station. I guess as a percentage of what I read, however, it's relatively small. (My God I do read a lot don't I!!) (All of whom, if reading, should be aware of this book's publisher, Unnerving--and Unnerving, if reading, meet these wonderful people/outlets :D)

Though I always think of a Knausgaard quote from book 2 of My Struggle (that I can't find): something about reading poetry and feeling, "These worlds are not accessible to you. Not for you. Denied." And that he also points out that even if this were the case, you could probably even make a decent reputation for yourself as a poetry reviewer/a poet yourself without anyone knowing! Now that's scary too...

But this poetry is accessible even to philistines like me! And deftly evokes a myriad of haunting emotions through the author's own personal struggles. Yet I think it's an ultimately hopeful collection.

I was happy to land, towards the end of the book, on a collection of excellent short stories, which are very much the kind of material I enjoy in Unnerving Magazine as well.

This is a great book, and quite popular it seems too! So I can highly recommend picking it up because chances are someone in your office would love to discuss it with you ;)
Profile Image for Mindi.
797 reviews264 followers
January 11, 2019
This is I think the fourth book of poetry I've read in the last couple of years, and I'm really starting to love it. This collection also has a few short stories in it, and those are all fantastic as well.

This is a visceral and powerful book. The bright cover is in stark contrast to the prose within, and it works wonderfully. The title and concept are also perfect. I went through some health issues that caused me to have panic attacks, and during those instances I would attempt to meditate and repeat the phrase "just breathe" over and over to myself until the panic would pass. So that phrase is very powerful to me, and I love how Al-Mehairi uses it as the theme for this collection. The book is divided into acts. The first is Breathe Through Fear, and the second is Breathe Through Pain. I loved the poems in both sections, but the Breathe through fear act really spoke to me. Al-Mehairi writes beautiful, accessible, and gut-wrenching prose.

The final section of the book is a short collection of short stories, and since I'm more familiar with this type of writing, I think the stories spoke to me the most. I especially loved Al-mehairi's story Dandelion Yellow which is an ode to The Yellow Wallpaper. It's such a powerful and soul crushing little story. This is an amazing collection that really spoke to me. I look forward to reading more from Al-Mehairi in the future.
Profile Image for Mike Thorn.
Author 23 books214 followers
June 5, 2018
Full review from my website.

The speakers in Breathe. Breathe.'s poems often toe the line between colloquial, conversational vernacular and cryptic, imagery-laden verse. Even during moments of abstraction, though, the poetry is above all else intimate and real, unafraid to state its meanings outright. Consider, for instance, the closing line in "Funhouse of Madness," which confronts the reader with a direct question: "... but dread is an affliction, isn't it?" To this reader, the line is exemplary of the book's contents: Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi explores the caustic force that is fear, especially within the context of domestic violence, but she also recognizes that afflictions can be diagnosed, treated and even healed. 

These poems, written almost entirely in free verse, often depict speakers seeking solace (or warding off danger) in the ludic spaces of the "natural world" – Breathe. Breathe. is rife with references to forests, lakesides, nonhuman animals and insects. The speakers often give off the impression of physical or emotional isolation, with threats or indeterminable forces lingering on the periphery, just out of sight. 

And there is no shortage of threat to be found between this book's covers; in addition to her obvious interest in folklore and magic realism, Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi showcases her commitment to the horror genre. In many ways, her short stories are even more confrontational than her poems. These narratives brutally address cycles of abuse, violent vengeance and terrifying fissures in the surface of reality. 

Although Breathe. Breathe. incorporates works of both prose and poetry, it is a unified and cohesive book. The author makes good use of recurring thematic threads, imagining and reimagining her focuses within different formal contexts. This is a strange collection, full of fantastical moments and unexpected ruptures in domestic spaces, but above all else it is real. That is not necessarily a term I use often when describing works of "genre" fiction or poetry, but I think it is the one that fits best here. 
Profile Image for Kenneth McKinley.
Author 2 books199 followers
January 7, 2018
Sometimes, I feel like I need to go outside my comfort zone with my reading and expand my horizons. Sometimes, I'll pick up a historical non-fiction offering or begrudgingly open a classic that I resisted in my high school literature class. Most of the time, I can appreciate the different prose than what I normally gravitate towards. Such is the case with Breathe. Breathe. I tend to read poetry in a sing-song lyrical way. I don't know if that's how you're supposed to read it, but I've never claimed to be an expert. With Breathe. Breathe., I had to read the first few poems over more than once to feel like I got what I read. That's not saying the poems were lacking. In fact, they were quite powerful, but I had to to get myself in the right frame of mind to read poetry. Do you ever do that? Once I got into the groove, the power of the poems started to impact me. Erin's prose is extremely heartfelt. Each one radiates with personal struggle, darkness, and perseverance. At times, it can be a bit overwhelming. The second half are Erin's short stories. Again, lots of darkness and revenge ooze from the pages. My personal favorites are The Lighthouse Keeper's Tale and The Madness of the Woodpecker. Give Breathe. Breathe, a try and see if it pushes your limits to the delicious edge.

4 Poisoned Cups of Tea out of 5

You can also follow my reviews at the following links:



Profile Image for Steve Stred.
Author 69 books440 followers
October 2, 2018
**Edited as my review was posted!**

Breathe. Breathe. By Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi is my first go around with Erin’s written word. I have had the pleasure of getting to know Erin a little bit through various social media platforms. I have seen the numerous editing projects and marketing projects she has on the go, so when I discovered she had a fiction collection out, I was intrigued.

Now – to get this right out front – I typically don’t read a ton of poetry. I write a little bit of poetry and in high school and college I took a number of poetry and creative writing classes, but at some point, and this is on me, I started to find poetry too pretentious. I know, I know, bit of a high brow response, but I did. After reading this collection, I would like to publicly apologize for my snobbishness.

This fantastically dark collection is broken into three acts. Act 1 features some grim poetry that all tell dark stories. These are all set in fanastical settings – murderous spouses, the search for immortality and serial killers. This is visceral, frightening stuff. Being an amateur poetry reader, I can tell you one thing I know; a great poet tells you a story in very few words. This is exactly what Erin does. I have read poetry before where I wished it was actually a short story, but not with a single entry here or in Act 2. In Act 2 the poetry becomes much more introspective/grounded in present day reality. Harrowing tales of domestic abuse, sickness and acts of desperation leading to violence. The poetry collected here all start off by rubbing a little bit of sand paper on the skin before pouring an unending stream of acid into the wound. You will find your heart pounding hard and your emotions thrown all over the place.

For Act 3, Erin shows that she isn’t a one trick poetry pony. The short stories in here follow a similar path to the poetry. Dark, decayed and unexpected. I personally loved the story of a man driven crazy by a woodpecker. The tale of Anuket based in Egypt reminded me of something Lovecraft would have written. Just really well written stories.

Overall this collection does such a great job of bringing you in quick before stabbing a vital organ, and for that I am truly thankful. I can’t wait to see what’s on tap for her next releases and can easily see Erin following this up with another collection or a great long read.

If the idea of reading a collection of poetry is what is preventing you from checking this out, give your head a shake. If it’s the lack of corpses and skulls on the cover, have a friend smack you silly. This is dark, dark stuff and it should be mandatory reading by everyone in the horror community.
Profile Image for Joseph VanBuren.
Author 14 books24 followers
October 10, 2017
In the foreword to this book, Brian Kirk admits that he doesn't understand most poetry. I tend to agree, despite being a poet myself, that poetry can sometimes be too personal or abstract to make a connection with a lot of readers. And then there is Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi's work in Breathe Breathe: the kind of poetry that is deeply personal yet universally resonant of the pain and darkness that we all encounter in our most difficult times. Her precise imagery adds a sense of beauty to those hopeless moments when we feel alone and uncertain. There is a raw realness to her work that struck a personal chord for me, especially in seemingly confessional poems like "You Say You Love Me" and "Anxiety of Darkness." As a fan of dark poetry that has heart and soul, I cannot recommend this book enough.
Profile Image for Somer Canon.
Author 23 books58 followers
October 11, 2017
This is a collection of deeply felt poems that expertly broadcast true pain and fear to the reader. Even if you typically aren't a fan of poetry, you're doing yourself a massive disservice if you don't read this.
Profile Image for Veronica.
679 reviews15 followers
March 23, 2018
I have to admit that I do enjoy poetry but I have to be in the mood for it. Often, I find that I need to read a poem a few times to have an understanding of the author's intended point. Usually, there is an abstract theme and the poem can have multiple meanings or each reader has a very different view of said poem.
Erin's collection is a refreshing change. Most of the poems have a theme of darkness and pain (except one) and she has a way of stripping away the layers of human feelings to show how deep anguish can really go and how far down a person may feel inside. The amazing thing (to me) is that there is always a hint of the survivor and a sense of hope that you can go on no matter what life throws at you. The poems all have a very realistic edge and there is a feeling that the author is bearing her soul on paper. I found the collection at times heartbreaking, touching and also encouraging in a way. I don't often read books more than one time but Breathe, Breathe is one that I will be reading again.
Profile Image for Red Lace Reviews.
289 reviews56 followers
October 12, 2018
Poetry and short fiction that doesn't apologise for what it is - equal parts painful and passionate. Exploring loss, agony, misery and a slew of other hardships, this volume possesses a variety of darkness. 

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I thank Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi for giving me the opportunity.

I often cringe when getting a taste of poetry, not because I necessarily dislike it, but because, like Brian Kirk confessed in the very insightful foreword, I simply don't understand it. In the past, all I was able to do was nod my head and accept that I perhaps wasn't sophisticated enough whilst the words in question just appeared to be a mishmash of obscurity. That's all changed, however, as I now know that I can comprehend the meaning, and I can perceive the very real emotions intermingled within the composition. Al-Mehairi didn't attempt to hide behind convoluted words that require a dictionary, but she was very, sometimes painfully, clear on her context.

A great deal of horror saturates this book, from authentic forms of abuse, to the teasing of paranormal elements. It can be easy to let a cover fool you, especially one as bright and deceptively cheerful as this one, but believe me when I say that it explores the grim and somber.

Act One - Breathe Through FEAR
This portion included pieces of otherworldly, fantasy-esque darkness and beauty, as well as a sprinkling of more realistic topics. Most notably: The Lure of a Witch, The Society of Fireflies, Abandoned, The Heirloom, The Lighthouse Keeper's Tale, Earl Grey Tea, The Table is Turned, and Ningyo's Misfortune all appealed to me in one form or another. Some led with nature being the prominent theme - I found them exquisite - whilst others were just downright suspenseful. One in particular, Earl Grey Tea, knocked me off guard, as I was legitimately tearing up before that very last line slapped me across the face.

Act Two - Breathe Through PAIN
Whilst the first act primarily consisted of paranormal themes, this section delved to a greater extent into the more raw and sensitive matters that haunt us all. I could truly relate to some, but what was most apparent was that Al-Mehairi clearly put her all into her writing, perhaps even reliving the hardest moments of her life. Most notably: Silent Screams, Nature's Salve, What Lies Beneath, Offerings to Nang Tani, Wraith of the Lonely, and The Hunted intrigued me.

Short Stories
The last segment showcased Al-Mehairi's ability to embrace other writing methods. I most enjoyed The Madness of the Woodpecker, Life-Giver of the Nile and Dandelion Yellow. Honestly, I feel the best was saved for last, as Dandelion Yellow proved to be something I won't forget for a long time to come.

In conclusion: There's a lot of content in this title, and all of it was thought-provoking. I may not be a connoisseur of poetry, but I appreciated the heart-wrenching emotion poured into every addition, and the concluding short stories also interested me.

Notable Quote:

She had made dreams out of nightmares.

© Red Lace 2018

Wordpress ~ Twitter
Profile Image for Tim Meyer.
Author 53 books985 followers
October 20, 2017
Wow. This collection really leaves bruises on the soul. I'm not a huge fan of poetry, yet, I found myself glued to the words and emotions pouring out of this author. The short stories were great too. My favorite was "Lunch Served at Noon", as it had a Twilight Zone-ish quality to it. To fans of dark literary fiction and poetry, I recommend giving Breathe. Breathe. a try.
Profile Image for David.
359 reviews
November 9, 2017
I read the chapbook version which is a slightly shorter version of this expanded edition of Breathe. Breathe. I also had the pleasure of reading a handful of poems two years ago while featuring Erin's work on my blog. Now with this collection I got to enjoy a full collection of poems along with short stories that really take a look at the dark places we all fear. I loved the stories and one of my favorites was 'Dandelion Yellow', where in a strange world a girl can't find any yellow crayons. Erin paints scenes and evokes emotions with precision and skill. These are the kinds of stories and poems that tighten your chest and leave you holding your breath.
Profile Image for Emily.
1,265 reviews331 followers
August 15, 2018
"There's solitude / but no peace."

I haven't finished a poetry collection in quite a while, and Breathe Breathe was perfect for getting myself reacquainted. Erin's writing is easy to read, which was important for me. The hardest part of reading poetry for me is not understanding what's going on, but Erin expresses herself well & is upfront about what she's trying to say.

This is a collection of both poetry & short stories, and there are three separate portions of the book - poems about fear, poems about pain, and short stories. The first section (Breathe Through Fear) was my favorite. These poems dealt with spookier topics, and my top favorites were The Fisherman, Night Stalked, The Heirloom, The Lighthouse Keeper's Tale, and Ningyo's Misfortune.

The second section (Breathe Through Pain). These poems were a lot more emotional than the first set, which is to be expected since it's about pain. I really love Erin's honesty & willingness to share her heart on these pages. There's some grief and darkness in these poems, and I admire the boldness of them. My favorites were Nature's Salve, What Lies Beneath, Offerings to Nang Tani, Wraith of the Lonely, and The Way You Love Me.

The final section has the short stories. My favorites were Lunch Served at Noon and Dandelion Yellow, but they were all fun to read. I enjoyed being able to see Erin's versatility as both a poetry and fiction writer.

I'm going to give some trigger warnings in case you decide to pick this one up - there's some rape, abuse, and mention of sexual abuse of a child. Although the cover of this book is bright and inviting, it deals with some dark & heavy topics inside, so just be aware.

I really liked the feminist aspect of this collection - a lot of the women seem broken, but still stand strong. This is the third collection I've read recently with this as a running theme, and it makes me very happy. I'm excited to see what else Erin writes!
Profile Image for Christa.
Author 27 books158 followers
April 27, 2018
"Sight unseen,
the end of a tentacle,
near and brushing by.
an explanation,
surprise foe,
-"Abandoned," Breathe. Breathe. by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

Though “Abandoned” is only four poems into Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi’s collection, ‘Breathe. Breathe.’ this is the exact point where she hooked me. Though the typical book on my nightstand is either a novel or short story collection, I read enough poetry to discern that Sweet Al-Mehairi’s work was something special, indeed something “raw, risky, and brave” as the Selcouth Station-penned blurb on the book’s cover declares. I’m sure this has been written in a great many reviews of ‘Breathe. Breathe,’ but at the risk of sounding trite, her work left me a little breathless, and a lot off kilter, in the very best of ways.

The poem, “Earl Grey Tea” demonstrates this uncanny ability to unsteady the reader. A lover cares for his partner as she grows ill and becomes bedridden. You feel the warmth of his love for her spreading over you like the cozy quilt he covers her with. The can taste the sweet black tea and the rind of bergamot orange on your lips, as our protagonist does. And then you reel from the force of the final two lines as if from a slap, chastising yourself for not having suspected something sooner, but knowing that Sweet Al-Mehairi’s words tricked you fair and square. That’s how stealthy her prose is; it sneaks up on you like a duplicitous lover, to where you only realize you’ve experienced something lethal after you relished in the sweetest of apothecary potions.

Like the protagonist in “Wraith of the Lonely,” Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi “carve[s] out [her] feelings in wistfulness.” The lines of her poems both scream and cry with absolute artistry; her work is boundless. Each short story traps you, leaves you smoldering. With narrative poems, short stories, homages to Thai and Japanese folklore, Ojibwe spirits, witchcraft, and Egyptian mythology, there’s truly something for every reader in ‘Breathe. Breathe.’ Grab a copy from Unnerving, make yourself a cup of Earl Grey Tea, and don’t forget to breathe.
Profile Image for Yolanda Sfetsos.
Author 69 books176 followers
January 20, 2019
After hearing a lot of great things about this collection on Twitter, I decided to pick up a copy for my Paperwhite. And I'm glad I did, because it truly is wonderfully dark.

I love that this collection has such a bright cover, yet holds so much darkness within its pages. There's a lot of horror, violence and fear trapped inside this book, but also plenty of hope.

The book is broken into three sections:

Act One - Breathe Through: FEAR is full of macabre and wicked poems that filled my mind with the creatures that hide in the shadows, and the monsters lying in wait. Hell, sometimes that monster might even be you.

Act Two - Breathe Through: PAIN is full of sad and heartbreaking poems about abuse that tear you apart, yet somehow help to make you whole again by the end of each one.

Short Stories contains some pretty good tales, too. I really enjoyed the three short Valhalla Lane pieces dealing with abuse and revenge. I got a real kick out of how these poor women dealt with their awful abusers, and liked how the newspaper clipping at the end wrapped everything up.

Revenge stories don't always have to feature a man with a gun. Sometimes it's a beaten-down woman who can't take anymore abuse.

I found The Madness of the Woodpecker reminiscent of Poe, and loved the surreal feel of it. Especially how it comes together at the end. Lunch Served at Noon was a trippy tale that starts with heartache and ends with some imaginative pseudo-SF stuff that was really unexpected. Life-Giver of the Nile was one of those stories that mixes contemporary life with myth in a mystical way that can only lead to terrible things. Although I loved all of these stories, the devastation that eventually dawned on me about what is really going on in Dandelion Yellow made it my favourite. It was just so good!

I think this collection of poem and prose, about the fantastical dangers found in the dark followed by the raw reality of the human monsters who are even worse, is an amazing experience. All the pieces are well written and totally worm their way into your heart and mind, until you can't do anything but feel the full brunt of their heavy emotion.

The issues dealt with in this book aren't pretty and not for the faint-hearted, but everything is written in a way that captivates its audience.

And for that alone, you should check this out.
Profile Image for Stephanie Jane.
Author 2 books229 followers
February 13, 2018
See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits

Breathe Breathe isn't a particularly long book - it's only about 175 pages - and I sat down expecting to read it within a few hours. However it actually took me over a week of dipping into the poems and stories in order to be able to finish it. Don't be mistaken in thinking I didn't enjoy the read. I did! (Although perhaps 'enjoy' isn't the best word to choose.) I found the intense emotion difficult to sustain so, instead of my usual cover-to-cover devouring, Breathe Breathe has been a process of reading one or two poems or stories and then taking time to think them over before returning. It's rare that a collection of short works gets through to me so deeply. All praise to Al-Mehairi for revealing so much of her literary vulnerability in this way.

As with any collection of course, there were pieces that I connected with more strongly than others so I am going to pick out a few of my favourites to mention here. If (when!) you buy this book, be sure to linger over the Fear poems The Heirloom and Earl Grey Tea, and the Pain poem Nature's Salve. I loved the imagery and sense of menace in these. As a woman, I found the short stories to be essentially horror tales. Occasional clunky dialogue aside, I loved their chilling atmospheres and Dandelion Yellow especially is excellent - and heart-breaking.

Breathe Breathe should probably come with a series of trigger warnings. Many of the poems and stories speak of gender violence and abusive relationships and Al-Mehairi isn't coy with her phrases. Sensitive and still-damaged souls should perhaps get a friend to read this through first. Personally I found the read disturbing and powerful and memorable.
Profile Image for Cobwebby Eldritch Reading Reindeer .
5,071 reviews266 followers
December 3, 2017
Review: BREATHE, BREATHE by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

This single author collection, containing both dark poetry and several dark short stories, takes as its theme breath: the need, both physical and psychological, to breathe, to exist, to endure, through fear, through pain, through trauma, adversity, dark memories. Many of the characters here experience trouble breathing, through trauma, injury, depression, grief--or death. I am certain many readers {and not only female} will find themselves breathing shallower, or holding their breath, as the vividness of these scenes awakens memories. Other readers who may not have these particular types of painful memories, will nonetheless wince in empathy. I am equally certain very few will walk away untouched, and very few will forget.
Profile Image for Michael.
84 reviews8 followers
October 15, 2019
What a collection. Heavy. Dark. Beautiful. Vibrant. While I’ve never been personally touched by the theme of abuse that runs throughout these pages, the horror wasn’t lost on me. I want nothing more than to protect my loved ones from such experiences (despite feeling helpless in the knowledge that I can’t protect them 24 hours a day from the world’s evils). This book, for me, is a good reminder of the value of compassion, because I never know what hells others have had to live through.
Profile Image for Dona Fox.
Author 113 books36 followers
June 13, 2019
I'm still awestruck. By turns mesmerizing then harrowing, I fell under this author’s spell. Addicted, I read it twice so far.
Profile Image for Sonora Taylor.
Author 29 books115 followers
September 26, 2018
A great collection of horror. While the short stories were overall strong - my favorite was Woodpeckers - the poetry stands out the most.
Profile Image for Catherine Cavendish.
Author 36 books394 followers
October 12, 2017
At times sinister, definitely dark, atmospheric and heavy with foreboding, this collection of poetry and short stories from Erin Sweet Al Mehairi touches our deepest fears. Murder, domestic violence and even an ancient Egyptian goddess all move within these pages where nothing is ever simple or straightforward. I admire the author’s ability to challenge and explore the facets of life that remain so often hidden. In doing so, she causes the reader to feel the pain of the subject’s suffering but also to recognize that there is life after it. Her characters are ultimately survivors (in the main anyway) and are all the stronger for it. My favourites include Valhalla Lane, Loveless, Ohio. Don’t go and live there. Please! Life-Giver of the Nile and Dandelion Yellow also particularly appealed to me, but there isn’t a weak story or poem in this collection.
Profile Image for Jenny.
973 reviews12 followers
August 27, 2020
I just picked this book up again having read it over a year ago. The book is, “a collection of dark poetry and short fiction exploring the surreal depths of humanity. It’s a representation of how life breaks us apart and words put us back together“. I found it took me on an emotional rollercoaster, and if anything was even better than the first time I read it. I was fully immersed in the poetry and the various different emotions they bought out within me. A dark read, but also an emotive one and it did remind me to, Breathe.
Profile Image for Jamie.
141 reviews23 followers
January 4, 2020
Reading Breathe. Breathe. was a great way to start the new year. This is a memorable collection of both poetry and short fiction. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a newbie when it comes to reading poetry; I’ve only read maybe 3 or 4 collections of poems in the past year, and I always feel a bit shaky and ignorant when it comes time to write the review. Sometimes I think maybe I’m missing the interpretation, as I’ve found myself enjoying many poems but feeling less affected by them than I do with prose. After reading this collection, I’ve changed my tune, and have come to the conclusion that it’s just a matter of finding poems that are a match for me—same as with reading a novel or short story, when you find your reading niche, everything just fits into place.

I really enjoyed the author’s poems in this collection. I loved how the book is broken into sections. The first poetry section is centered around the emotion of fear, and following that, anxiety. The latter is an emotion that I know all too well, and I found myself connecting with many of these poems. I had favorites from both poetry sections, and if I narrow it down to a top five, they are:

-The Lighthouse Keeper’s Tale

-Earl Grey Tea

-Anxiety of Darkness

-Nature’s Salve

-Wraith of the Lonely

The last section of this book contains five short stories, all of which I enjoyed. My absolute favorites were Life Giver of the Nile and Dandelion Yellow.

Not only did I enjoy the words within the stories and poems, I also loved that this collection contains both a foreword and afterword. I feel starry-eyed when I discover author notes of any kind in a book. For me it adds an element of deeper understanding and a stronger connection to the material. With regards to this collection, Brian Kirk said it best in his foreword, stating that the author writes with a “raw honesty”. I agree with this sentiment, as every piece in this collection felt like it was from the heart. I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with the author on social media, and have found her to be genuine and supportive to myself and others in the community. These same traits shine through in her sincere and heartfelt writing, and I’d happily read more.

Profile Image for Lesley Ann Campbell.
100 reviews6 followers
February 13, 2019
Breathe. Breathe.
Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

First of all, many thanks to the author, Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, for a copy of this wonderful collection to read in exchange for review. I always relish the chance to read some poetry, I don’t get the chance as often as I’d like to. I wholeheartedly am grateful for receiving this to read. It was inspiring, truly. I have just ordered myself a hard copy too, this is one which deserves a place on my shelf of re-reads.

I found myself captivated with this book from the start. It’s a beautifully dark and inspired look inside our pain, our sadness and our fear. The book itself is broken down into three sections.

Act One: Breathe Through Fear
Dark and disturbing monsters, what lurks in the shadows and what is beyond the veil? Act One is sublime in the telling of these tales of fear and human horrors. Earl Grey Tea is one that will linger in my sub-conscious with its tragedy.

Act Two: Breathe Through Pain
Love, revenge, pain and jealousy - Act Two has it all. These are real, poems not about lurking monsters or the supernatural, but about the realities of our being.

Short Stories
The third section in the book contains a collection of exquisitely written short stories centering on topics including abuse and revenge.

The final story in the collection, giving inspiration to the bright cover art is ‘Dandelion Yellow’, that is one that will stick me. It is heartbreaking tale of child abuse and the way a child’s mind works to protect itself. It started out so innocent, a child coloring with crayons, and her favorite color is the Dandelion Yellow. What follows delves far from that childlike naivety and springs the true tragic horror at the end. It is captivating in its sadness.

Breathe. Breathe is a tragic and thought provoking look within the human soul and a horrific exploration of our worst element. It is a beautifully put together piece combining the dark nature of the poetry with some rather traumatic short stories. The bright and sunny cover is an emotional trigger of the final tale. I don’t think I will ever be able to vision a dandelion in the same light again.

71 reviews
October 16, 2018
Do you ever hear a song and think, “It’s songs like these that make me want to learn guitar (or other instrument of choice)?” I hear songs that impress me so much, I just wish I could express my own feelings using that particular instrument (basically anything by Days of the New makes me want to learn acoustic guitar).

Pretty much the entire time I was reading “Breathe. Breathe.” I found myself thinking, “It’s writing like this that makes me want to write poetry.” And I mean that as a great compliment because reading and writing poetry is often not easy for me, as much as I wish it were so. The way Erin writes her poems (and stories!) just flows through my imagination and paints pictures of beautiful characters and scenery that may come with an unexpected or dark ending. Many of Erin’s poems made me think something or feel something, and I don’t always get that with poems.

My favorite poems were Earl Grey Tea, You Say You Love Me, and Driftwood of Wishes. Earl Grey Tea almost brought me to tears, then it twisted my heart at the end in a different direction. I had to take a second and think after reading that one! You Say You Love Me moved me very much into a mixture of both sadness and anger. Driftwood of Wishes had very tangible imagery that had me smiling at first, but had a very haunting end.

To me, the collection of poems moved between what I would call more seemingly concrete characters, objects or themes to the more abstract. I believe anyone who enjoys poetry will find something they like in here because there is a variation in length, style, topic, etc.

The final act of the book includes a collection of dark short stories. They are all very well written. Probably the one story that resonated with me the most was Dandelion Yellow. Beautiful imagery but with a lot of heartaches.

Some of the poems didn’t necessarily speak to me, but that’s OK! Everyone is different and what speaks to you may not speak to me - and the other way around. But overall I find Erin’s writing style in both her poems and stories to be very enjoyable.

This collection beautifully showcases the beauty in the worlds we create (either physically or in our own heads) and also reminds us of the sickening cruelty inflicted onto others. A great collection for anyone who enjoys reading work on the darker/haunting side, and who may want to feel a little vengeance a little once in awhile!
Profile Image for Sandy.
310 reviews25 followers
April 15, 2018
As I sit here, I’m contemplating what to write. Erin’s words were deeply moving. As I read, I posted a few comments on Twitter. We don’t know each other, but maybe she’d respond?

It began with my initial reaction to her book. Her words were pleading. Each poem was a cry for help. My heart hurt. My soul was bleeding. She was glad I was able to grasp her pain.

I then commented on the short story, The Madness of the Woodpecker. The ending was an amazing twist. I did not see that coming. She told me it was based on a true creature who’s incessant drilling naturally led to a story of insanity, and she just wanted to have a bit of fun. Even though we saw humor in the inspiration, the story itself is serious. Much of the population doesn’t understand mental illness. This story is a creative peek inside the mind of madness.

I also came across a set of short stories set in Loveless, Ohio. I told her I loved the lane they all resided on. The revenge was sweet. She had fun writing that part.

By the time I was finished reading, my emotions had run the gambit. I was depressed, hurt, angry, scared. I told her she should sell her book as a kit. One needs the emotional support while reading her pain.

This turned into joking back and forth. How inappropriate, I know. I just experienced her tortured past as if it was right in front of me. I could see the helplessness in her red, blood-shot eyes. The salt from her tears creating permanent rivulets down her face. And I was laughing.

This book was written as a way to heal. It is an outlet to keep emotions from turning into a time bomb. Another part of recovery is being able to see the lighter side of things. Being able to smile and share a laugh or two is also therapeutic. A balm for the soul. There was no disrespect. Only the glimpse of happiness for a woman who deserves only the best.
Profile Image for Michelle Stockard Miller.
332 reviews154 followers
December 31, 2017
This fantastic book is a collection of poems and tales of abuse and horror, told so brilliantly only by someone who has firsthand experience. Get ready to feel every range of emotion while reading. From fear to intense anxiety to shock, and even a bit of laughter. This book will touch your soul.

The author touches on the all to prevalent issue of domestic violence. Gut wrenching horror and sorrow to read such powerful narratives of these experiences. She also visits our most deeply seated fears, of what we create to cover up the horrors in our lives.

Certainly not my most favorite or the biggest standout, but definitely one that took me by surprise was Earl Grey Tea...not what I was expecting. This poem is the art of the quick change.

Those who love The Twilight Zone will enjoy Lunch Served at Noon. The one that really had my nerves on edge...The Madness of the Woodpecker.

So many standouts in this collection. Really too many to mention them all individually. Just read it, is all I can say. The experience will be unforgettable. I promise. If you like books that make you think, and that make you feel everything, then this is the one for you.
Profile Image for Stuart West.
Author 34 books35 followers
November 13, 2018
Ms. Al-Mehairi's collection of dark poems and fiction, Breathe, Breathe, surprised me. I'm not the biggest poetry fan out there, but I know how hard it is to write, with every word important to the emotion conveyed. Al-Mehairi is a masterful poet who couches her sublime prose with horrific subject matter. But open up that couch, unfold it, and you'll feel her writing. Her poems are full of longing, despair, anger, loss, and love, every word colliding into a powerful and dark journey. Taken as a whole, the poems were actually my favorite part of the book, something I did not expect. Her short stories are good, too. Herein, Al-Mehairi writes on the fringes of the Twilight Zone, all of the tales slightly spooky, slightly surreal, and full of loss and sadness. Dreams put on a page is the best way I can put it. I'm very curious to see what Al-Mehairi writes next. Recommended for the experimental horror buff.
Profile Image for Valerie.
641 reviews15 followers
May 9, 2019
I must admit I am not a reader of poetry but as the author sent this to me and I have been tweeting with her, I was ready to take a leap into her dark, haunting poetry and short stories!

I really enjoyed Act One-Fear! One of my favorites The Society of the Fireflies. It had me remembering nights as a child how I would feel when my backyard was full of lightning bugs! Others were Clock of Doom, The Table is Turned-with a mention of The Portrait of Dorian Gray(favorite read of mine), and Ningyo’s Misfortune! Act Two-Pain! My favorites were Love is Poison, You Say You Love Me and Offerings to Nang Tani?

Short Stories-The things that happen on Valhalla Lane are brutal and I loved them! Lunch Served at a Noon was another good one!

This being my first foray into dark poetry and this authors stories I was left wanting more. These were deceptively horrific, emotional, full of dark thoughts and actions and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I believe this author changed my mind about dark poetry!
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