Vanilla Milk (Paperback)
A Memoir Told in Poems
Silver Birch Press, 9780692267479, 106pp.
Publication Date: September 22, 2014
KIRKUS REVIEWS: "Through poems and vignettes, Brenner's moving debut memoir commemorates her son's death. Brenner began writing poetry in earnest the night 6-year-old Riley died of an arteriovenous malformation brain hemorrhage...These free verse selections, mostly written in complete sentences, rely on alliteration, assonance and striking imagery rather than straight rhyming for impact. Perspective morphs subtly, starting in the third person and moving into a more intimate first-person present, with occasional outbursts of second-person address to Riley...A noteworthy exploration of a parent's grief."
"The poems inside of this book were torn from the heart of a woman whose suffering is so immense that it could swallow her whole. Instead of letting the staggering pain consume her, Chanel Brenner crafted these undeniably gorgeous meditations on the death of her son. I read Vanilla Milk four times before putting it down, because I was afraid to let it go. Chanel Brenner has crafted a resplendent work of art that is unrivaled in its ability to make sense of the ebbs and flows of grief." MATTHEW LOGELIN, New York Times bestselling author of Two Kisses for Maddy
"Chanel Brenner's Vanilla Milk is a transcendent work. The skill and courage of these poems inspire me to be a better writer, the generosity in them inspires me to be a better person." MIA SARA, author at PANK]
"The psychological and physical benefits acquired through the process of transforming painful emotions into words, as a means to regulate grief and distress is well documented, scientifically and via therapeutic art programs around the world. However transforming a mother's sudden loss of her six-year-old son into an expressively accessible collection of engaging and compassionate poems requires graceful crafting and emotional intelligence. By successfully mingling the chaotic rhythms of her grief and anguish, with her vivid illuminations, the poet has brought forth a collection of narrative poems that timelessly unite reader and writer, in both grief and healing." The Eric Hoffer Award for Books (Poetry Category, Honorable Mention, 2015)
"Vanilla Milk...is a surprising blend of formats which melds a memoir to poetry...Chanel Brenner is not the first to use poems to immortalize and capture the events surrounding a child's death: Stan Rice's Some Lamb is one example of an outstanding synthesis of poem/memoir -- and Vanilla Milk deserves to take its place alongside it, on the shelf of exceptional writings." MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW
"It is not every day that I read a collection of poems that lays bare to me the writer's soul. It is not every day that I read a poem that truly breaks my heart. And it is not every day that I find solace in sadness or hope in tragedy. The day I read Chanel Brenner's work was not an ordinary day...Chanel speaks of the enduring promises of life, of her love for her family, and of the hope that eventually takes root in her worn heart...Though the wound is deep and will never fully heal, Vanilla Milk creates 'life from loss.'" After all, that's what poets do." LINDSEY GRUDNICKI, Minerva Rising
Vanilla Milk, a memoir told in poems, focuses on a mother's and family response to the sudden death of the author's six-year-old son. These elegies might be read as written snapshots forming an elegiac album, depicting how a traumatic loss alters relationships, love, and parenting, and perceptions of danger, time, and life. Characterized by unsparing honesty, clarity, and restraint, the poems explore the limits inherent in "recovering" from the grief of losing a child, and the need to continue experiencing joy. Includes a 20-page album of family photographs.