Eighteen years in the making, Sophia McKenzie’s “The Heart’s Turmoil: Poetry That Reflects The Joy and Pain of Love” is an unflinchingly intimate anthology of verse.
The autobiographical work from the first-time author consists of 100 love poems grouped into chronological sections, which can be read in any order without losing momentum. Her poems will take readers on a journey from the intensity of a teen crush to the more nuanced emotions of the loves, lusts and disappointments of the young Christian adult.
Divided into five chapters – “Teen Infatuation,” “Falling in Love,” “Heartbreak,” “Passionate Fire” and “Angry Sparks” – the poems reveal McKenzie’s voyage of emotional and sensual discovery as she lays bare feelings inspired by the raw emotion of her passionate soul.
Never salacious, often revealing, the poems (mainly rhyming and later free verse) are refreshingly open. She is hoping that readers will warm to her verse and that many will be able to identify their past or current relationships in them. As an emotional commentary on the poet’s former love life, “The Heart’s Turmoil” is not all romance nor does it always make easy reading. Love’s ugly flip side, the loneliness, hate and loathing are also laid bare in poems such as “The Golden Rule.”
A duty to share
When asked whether she had felt the need to tone down any of the poems prior to publishing them, McKenzie said, “As they come from the heart, I found they come straight out and just flowed naturally, so I was reluctant to amend them … God gave me this gift and so I know that it’s my duty to share it.”
This confidence in the tone and direction of her poetry is grounded in the early support of friends and family.
“I’d always read my poems to my parents. We are a church-going family and my parents always encouraged me. I used to read some of my poems at church and in poetry readings in Kingston and my father would always accompany me.”
The poet now feeds her muse as a member of Floetry, the local open mic poetry forum, which meets every third Wednesday, as well as getting feedback from friends.
According to the poet, her need to compose verse began at a young age. “I started writing when I was 15 years old, firstly as a way of expressing all the pent-up emotion and grief brought on by an aunt’s death, and later that same year it was channeled into expressing an unannounced and unrequited teen crush … I was very shy at the time, and for me, poetry was the only way to channel those emotions and make sense of my world.”
The first of these is the volume’s opening poem “Watching You.” Inspired by an infatuation that took time to get over and was never admitted to the object of her desire, the poem practically wrote itself. “I was staring out of the window daydreaming, when all of a sudden up popped the first line in my head. As soon as I’d written it down, the rest flowed.”
Encouraged by friends and having learned about self-publishers CreateSpace through a Floetry friend, McKenzie enlisted the help of the U.S.-based firm to compile and publish 100 copies of “The Heart’s Turmoil.” The poet has now sold most of her book’s initial print run and is looking to order copies in the near future.
“I was amazed by the strong turnout at my Books & Books launch,” she said, adding, “I’ll probably be looking to launch it in Jamaica at one of the bookstores, like Sangster’s, if I can set up something down there.”
Encouraged by her book signing session, where 30 copies of “The Heart’s Turmoil” were sold, she is now looking to sell her title online through CreateSpace’s affiliation with Amazon.
To achieve that goal, the alumna of Randolph College’s International Studies and the University of Liverpool’s law program, is already looking to “get a tax number and set up a royalty profile.” Undaunted by that hurdle, she is even thinking seriously ahead about her next publishing venture.
A dance lover and sea swim enthusiast, McKenzie is keen to start research on a prose project she has been mulling over recently.
“I’d like to write a book about men and what I’ve learned about relationships. It would probably be more of a practical guide of types of men – to avoid,” she quips.
Still looking for Mr. Right, however, it turns out that McKenzie is ever the optimist in matters of the heart.