Vanilla Milk (Paperback)

A Memoir Told in Poems

By Chanel Brenner

Silver Birch Press, 9780692267479, 106pp.

Publication Date: September 22, 2014

List Price: 16.00*
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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 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.

About the Author

Chanel Brenner's poems have appeared in "Cultural Weekly, Poet Lore, Rattle, The Coachella Review, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Foliate Oak, Glassworks, " and others. She was awarded first prize for her poetry in The Write Place At the Write Time's contest. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son. "Grief is heavier than concrete. A mother's grief is fierce, dark and insatiable...That's what I learned from "Vanilla Milk."..The intimacy of these poems brings us face to face with the mother's unbearable pain, which somehow must be borne...But even in her deepest sorrow his mother is compassionate toward the suffering of mothers and their ailing children." NANCY GERBER "Mom Egg Review" "This collection of free verse and essay-like vignettes is about moving forward through the concrete that is unexplainable loss...The bravery with which she writes is, frankly, incomprehensible and her straightforwardness is a primer for anyone who knows someone who has lost a child...As you trek through the book you learn that she is not just grieving the loss of Riley, but also the slipping away of friendships, safety, and the general feeling of normalcy that accompanies everyday life...Truly, it is the simplicities of the moments she captures that really moved me as a parent. If you scroll through my iPhone you don't see pictures of huge events, you find my efforts to capture the magic that I see in the common times when I look into my children's eyes...Brenner has a way of closing out each poem with lines that knock the wind out of you, but turning the page doesn't feel optional..."Vanilla Milk" is raw, uncensored, and beautiful. If you know someone who has struggled through the loss of a child this book will offer you insight into things they are probably afraid to vocalize. Chanel Brenner writes as if she is unafraid of judgment, and perhaps she is, since she has suffered so deeply and understands the depths of loss in a way I pray I will never have to." MICHAEL BRYANT, "Mamalode"