Review: The VelvetBlory Blue Book #1, by Velvet Blory

I remember when I fell in love with VelvetBlory. I had been on Tumblr for a few years, thus accomplishing my primary goal of reserving my username. But I hadn’t done anything with my account. I’d applied an uninspiring-but-free basic theme, which I’ve since replaced with another, equally uninspiring theme. I occasionally liked a poem or reblogged a photo, and I watched my activity feed closely, so I knew it spiked whenever I posted. It spiked all the way up to one or two views. I even had a few followers, but I suspected they’d simply returned the favour when they saw I’d followed them. I doubt they ever checked out my blog; it was such a disappointment.

VelvetBlory changed Tumblr for me. I was a part of something bigger, something creative. It was through Velvetblory that I found Rakuli, a talented concrete poet (more on that), an Australian photographer and one of my kindred spirits. (I never told him that last bit, though; I just liked almost all of his posts.) VelvetBlory was what finally prompted me to start sharing my work after years of silence, with a little hashtag that I hoped would catch their attention. They never noticed me, so far as I can tell, so I worried that my work was awful; it was such a disappointment.

In 2011, the VelvetBlory crew announced they were publishing a book. Writers eagerly submitted works in the hope of a ‘real’ publication; recognising my own work was unworthy (as all writers firmly believe, except those whose work actually is unworthy), I didn’t. But I did order a copy of the final product, and when The VelvetBlory Blue Book #1 arrived I eagerly unwrapped it and placed it on my bedside table with every intention of reading a few pages each night. I didn’t, though. It lost me; it was such a disappointment.

It stayed on my bedside table for several years, unread but for the first few pages. It relocated whenever I did, living in and out of boxes until one day I forgot it existed. I didn’t recall it until I unpacked it again in mid-2014 and placed it hesitantly in the poetry section of my bookshelf. I finally read it in 2016, on a deckchair in New Caledonia. The view was spectacular; the book less so. It was such a disappointment.

I read on, though, because surely even the most awful book contains a few magical lines! Gems like this:

I remember with eyes closed and
feet moving forward.

So I underlined those gems and noted them down. I even found a few blories that I liked in their entirety, such as Title by Eric Boyd, 13 by Scottie Hughes, The Meeting by Roxy Resic (Roxanne Magdaleno) and, of course, Rakuli’s contribution: Poetry was her name.

But with its unprofessional layout, inconsistent design and grammatical errors, the compilation left me with a foul taste and a bunch of unanswered questions: why does the cover call it VelvetBlory, all one word, when the title page calls it Velvet Blory, with a space? Why does a page break separate that blory from its title? Why is this page double-spaced and that page single-spaced; why does the font change here and the numbering format there? Why have you hyperlinked text in a printed book, where I can’t click it? Why are these blories printed unedited, with grammatical errors that can’t possibly be for a deliberate stylistic effect?

And while all these questions were valid, none were so valid as the one that addressed my self-sabotage, the one I did not ask: why did I think my work wasn’t good enough to submit?

I can’t comment on VelvetBlory’s more recent compilations except to say the covers look more professional. I wouldn’t recommend purchasing the first book, though, unless you’re doing it solely to fund their cause — you’re more likely to find the good stuff by searching their website. But you should definitely check out the writers I’ve mentioned above.

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