‘which story will you believe’ – knock blog tour: review & guest post
Apologies for the radio silence around here lately but today I have an exciting post for you! I was delighted when Topaz from Half Mystic Press reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in taking part in the blog tour for Knock by Melissa Atkinson Mercer. So without further ado, read on for my review and an exclusive guest post from Melissa herself!
In this fiercely musical, highly anticipated
debut release from Half Mystic Press, Melissa
Atkinson Mercer interrogates the width,
weight, and wholeness of depression, calling
out to a self reflected back as monster, as
myth, as song and water and tongue. Knock
asks us to consider the complications of
gender and voice: who gets to speak, who gets
listened to, whose stories turn to fact and
whose to fiction. Unflinching and tender, this
book reminds us what it takes to navigate the
mind’s dark seas and come out alive.
Going into Knock, I had little idea of what to expect and so I went in completely fresh and let myself be swept along by the words on the page. Soon, I was whisked into a world that hinted of something magical and otherworldly, yet was rooted in plumbing the depths of the human mind with all its urgency and melancholy.
The collection has an air of simmering tension around it, creeping notes of something haunting yet wildly mesmerising. The pages are home to an abundance of imagery, sometimes confusing and requiring second reading but mostly rich and evocative. The words sing from the page, loudly, firmly. They sing of suffering and healing and truth. Each word carefully selected and arranged, imploring you to listen, just listen.
Reading was simultaneously like trying to stay afloat, gulping down mouthfuls of water, and then: a breath of fresh air, a sigh of relief. Here I am, this is who I am and what I have to say, the voices in the book whisper, like a bird breaking free of its chains, shaking its wings and finding flight, soaring into the sky.
The collection maintains a steady pace, gathering momentum and crescendoing in the third section – my absolute favourite – which is aptly named ‘v. to collide’. Here, the poetry is lucid and sharp, breaking down and reconciling. It becomes a relentless dialogue: persistent questioning answered by a voice that is stronger, more insistent. A worthy, emphatic finale.
Ultimately, the words deftly threaded together transcend out of the shadowy depths into something light and almost free and hopeful. They come together into a collection of poetry that is shrouded in a sense of urgency, constantly pushing and pulling, giving and resisting.
And here, I leave with you some gorgeous snippets:
Before fire was ever fire, she says, there was just this
house, fit together like a cello. Storms grew on the black
lake, cracking it like marble. We plucked out the cotton
sky. We took the sugar-reeds by their throats. Made flutes
of them. (5)
I wanted you to cut the ribbon clean, to sew tents from
ancestral dresses, stronger than floods, than tongues. (13)
for months now my body a sea
emptied of light,
an electric yearning,
speaking doesn’t make you
freer than silence (26)
before she was a myth she was a deer
wading into mountains waist-deep in stars (44)
which story will you believe
Melissa Atkinson Mercer
From my deck, the town below is a pattern of beautiful, colored lights.
Up close, the story is different: abandoned storefronts. An old house, rotting and covered with tarp. A half-burnt factory.
Which is the real town? The lights? The decay?
My husband and I often have trouble agreeing on what happened when. Even when the stakes aren’t high—when we’re just remembering back to a discussion over dinner or to an event from the weekend before—we’ll disagree about what was said, and how, and by whom.
Whose story is real? Whose memory can be trusted?
Knock is a study of this fragmentation, the way memory and observation fracture and reflect back.
I tend to think of myself—of any self—like I think of the town: my history fragmented, my body/voice known only in parts.
To me, the town is both a dazzling display of lights and a picture of decay, but to others it might be something else entirely. It might be the high school football team, the brick walkways that lead into fields and creeks, the cluster of new stores by the highway.
We are the sum of the stories we believe and perceive. As the opening line of the book’s second section (v. to gain entry) asks: which story will you believe—the question not which story is objectively real, but which one a reader will choose to make real.
Building a shared history, then—a history that can actually be shared and embraced by many voices—is a challenge. In the past, history has been built at the expense of some voices: white, male, wealthy voices were heard while others were silenced. The “victors” wrote our story.
At the same time, there have been studies about how people can alter memory, studies that show how just remembering something can change the memory itself. If, in fact, memory is not stagnant, then understanding how we shape our own memory becomes even more essential.
The project of Knock is to ask readers to question and rebuild their stories, to actively choose what they believe and what they don’t. My hope is that we—all of us—can begin to construct a history that we might actually be able to share.
If you are compelled to read Knock for yourself, its release date is the 1st of March and you can click HERE to preorder a copy.
I’d love to hear from you so feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below!
And finally, many thanks to Melissa for providing me with such a lovely guest post to share and to Half Mystic for thinking of me and inviting me to take part in this blog tour.