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Burning Sugar

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  262 ratings  ·  42 reviews
In this incendiary debut collection, activist and poet Cicely Belle Blain intimately revisits familiar spaces in geography, in the arts, and in personal history to expose the legacy of colonization and its impact on Black bodies. They use poetry to illuminate their activist work: exposing racism, especially anti-Blackness, and helping people see the connections between his ...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published September 29th 2020 by Arsenal Pulp Press
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Average rating 4.36  · 
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Cicely Belle Blain
Aug 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
I wrote it and I think it's pretty good. ...more
darce vader
Apr 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
10/5. I love this book. It makes me question all the other books of poetry I said I loved.

"I grew up on MSN /
catfishing myself into straightness"
MissBecka Gee
"I've never given birth but my stretch marks show this body holds the weight of a thousand lives."

This felt like I found a journal in a park and decided to read it.
Of course I would read it, I'm a nosy bitch.
I regret nothing.
I think this feels like reading someone's journal, because, essentially I was.
All the poems and letters are deeply personal, and highly powerful.
So happy I randomly grabbed this on indie bookstore day!
Bek MoonyReadsByStarlight
Apr 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was such a beautiful collection. Individually, the poems were powerful and beautiful, but also as a collection, it felt very cohesive. I loved that there were three distinct parts with their own motifs, but they were still all connected by other themes. I cannot wait to see what other collections they put out!
Sep 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fierce and revelatory poems from this brilliant human who burns so bright and makes art and activism of the forces that shape their life. CB is a master of endings that both surprise and move the reader. Their writing is raw, unflinching, and tonally honest, their voice, spliced with longing and visionary dreams. Love: I can feel Peter in every page—broke my heart and sewed it back together.

“We stood at the foothills of Davie Street; she seemed dormant, unexpecting, pressing snooze on liberation
Karla Strand
This collection is an excellent example of how poetry can be used for revolutionary resistance, exposure of systemic oppression, and inspiration of rage that can move the world.
Jun 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, 2021
Cicely Belle Blain creates a strong narrative pull from one poem to the next. When reading poetry, I typically read 2-3 poems a night before going to bed, but I found that with Burning Sugar I was reading at least 4. Blain mixes up formatting, prose, and the end result is beautiful. I didn't want to put it down!

I like to save a favourite line to put in my reviews but I couldn't choose, so here is the last section of a poem that I really loved.

"They served me a platter of mangoes; they were mad
Aug 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Many moments of Burning Sugar by Cicely Belle Blain made me feel seen and heard. Exploring multiracial identity, queerness, childhood and socialization, I agree with Vivek Shraya that the voice of this collection feels in conversation with other queer iconic writers in its clarity, imagery and precision. The collection is split into three sections: Place, Art, and Child. “Place” takes us city to city, looking at the beginnings and ending of living in a place, of understanding how and if we feel ...more
Zuri Scrivens
Aug 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Reading Burning Sugar was like having a conversation with the Black best friend I never knew I needed. Cicely Belle Blain highlights what’s been dismissed, erased or forgotten, and brings voice to so much that I’ve felt, yet couldn’t articulate.

With “Toronto”, I was shocked to realize that I didn’t know about the 2016 march on Davie St., while “First Grade” rendered me furious and distraught for the child that Cicely once was.

Blain’s collection of truths helped me feel seen in so many ways, wh
Jun 28, 2021 added it
There is so much here. A lot of different styles of poetry and some really caught me.

The book is made up of perspectives that are neither mine to comment on nor even observe (or rather this is how it felt to me).

I think the following lines are what I'd like to comment on:

From the poem 'Dear Selina':

"Under the dim lights, I felt the vibrations of white people. Consumed by an intergenerational fascination with you/me/us. Enraged at their ancestors and counterparts--but never at themselves. Obliv
Vanessa Raquel
Sep 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I had the pleasure of meeting Cicely when I lived in Vancouver. I attended many of their trainings and learned so much about anti-black racism. This collection of poems was simply... magical. I felt so connected and saw myself in SO many of the topics and emotions. I am also a biracial queer person so it was truly entrancing. The kind of book to read again and again!
Christine Lalonde
Aug 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful book. Raw, gut-wrenching emotion.

It has been 20 years since I set foot on The Gambia and Blain transported me back there in poetry as if I had never left. Highly, highly recommend this book.
Feb 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I’m not usually into poetry, but I absolutely loved this book. Equal parts heartbreaking and inspiring.
Sarah (more.books.than.days)
This is a collection of poetry that calls to be read, and read aloud; to be shared and shared again. Beyond form as epistolary and verse, it is at once desparately personal and globally relevant.
Sep 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Spicy and beautiful!
Emma Harris
Apr 19, 2022 rated it really liked it
Turns out I really love poetry when it’s written by a queer person.. Cicely Belle Blain writes eloquently about colonization, Blackness, queerness, and what it means for all of these points to come together. They are poignant, and funny, and the poems are interspersed with letters and short notes that still read like prose. Excellent excellent excellent.
Jun 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
As I stated before in an update I was kindly sent a digital copy of this by the lovely people over at edelweis. All of my thoughts are my own. 4,5 stars. I am not someone well versed in poetry. But I’m making work of it to read more. After seeing on my goodreads how shockingly small the number of black authors was from which I had read books, I wanted to make work to read more black authors. I applied for a prerelease digital copy about a month ago, and I got accepted. I was over the moon and so ...more
Sep 02, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

yes, blood is thick,
but water is life- from "Father"
When I started reading these poems, I wasn't sure that the flow was for me. But the truth, pain, power, beauty, darkness, rage encased within each line and stanza spoke to the answering anger in me for our Blackness and shared history.
Each poem read, was like having the conversation, as I'm sure many of us have had and are tired of having, especially in these times, which are not
Feb 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
Cicely Belle Blain's debut poetry collection, Burning Sugar, is an experience. Cicely is a Black/mixed queer femme from London, who writes nuanced pieces on Black and queer identity, colonization, survivor’s guilt, and the longing for the ancestral home. Their poems range from short to letters, written to individuals such as Philando Castile and Archibald Motley Jr, written with gratitude and questions long left unanswered to victims of crimes repeated throughout history.

These poems move through
Jennifer Torry
Nov 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Cicely Belle Blain has created a masterpiece. This book is a must read. Their careful attention to detail and diction creates a collection of poems that you feel rather than read. It’s moving, informative, transformational, personal, poignant, and so much more. Blain gives readers a glimpse into their personal experience as a black queer individual growing up and living on different continents yet experiencing the intergenerational and ongoing trauma that colonization inflicted on black people w ...more
Madison Barnes
Mar 29, 2022 rated it really liked it
"I rediscovered friendship
I twisted my ankle falling into Earth's core
I forgot you could be loved like this"
-Alexandra Bridge
Sam - Spines in a Line
This is a really powerful collection told through different places and works of art as the author looks at race and queerness in these different spaces.

I’d seen this one shared by a lot of bloggers so I knew it was well-liked plus that cover is beautiful! But I was so surprised when I opened it and saw the first poem was titled Manitoba, as well as poems for Toronto and Vancouver. So nice to see parts of home in this collection and be able to recognize the descriptions.
Feb 13, 2022 rated it it was amazing
This was a fantastic collection of poetry and so many of the poems were striking with lines and messages I hope to revisit. I will be honest, I've mostly been reading anthologies recently and hearing only from one author was enjoyable because of how the poems created both a story and a person. Beautifully done ...more
Nov 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, lgbt
this book came with glowing recommendations.
I loved the themes and stories in this book. The explorations of home, identity, place and resistance.
I did not as much feel the poetry but fall into the stories.
I look forward to reading more of their writing.
Sarah Dunphy
Mar 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Such a stunning book of poetry. I often struggle to read poetry, but this collection has the challenging elements and beautiful writing that I look for while still being fairly easy to read. I don't own this book (borrowed from my roomie!) but will likely buy a copy for myself so I can re-read. ...more
Lori Goodwin-Chapman
While some of the lines in these poems really stuck out and resonated with me, I found that many of them - while being beautifully written - did not. I really enjoyed the stories the author told, and I think that those may have been my favorite part of this book.
Maverick Trevor
May 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I have really been enjoying Cicely Belle Blain's poems whenever I have space and time. For me poetry is always best read aloud and this is no different. It is both heavy and gentle and calm all at the same time ...more
Oct 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2020
This book is a love letter to the self. A celebration of Blackness, queerness and life.
Oct 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely loved the flow of this collection. It’s intimate but philosophical and is 100% amazing.
Laura Sackton
Some of the short one line poems in this book really stuck out for me, but overall this collection didn't get deep into my heart. ...more
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