Review by Linnet Phoenix: Ain’t These Sorrows Sweet by Lauren Scharhag

Today, I finished reading Ain’t These Sorrows Sweet and what a journey we have been on, through dark places, wonderfully described: “Burned out encampments in railroad yards give no scent of myrrh.” This book contains beautiful, heart-wrenching narrative poems which it has been a tearstained pleasure to read. I realised that the book was a tour of grief in all its many forms. But it was deeply personal & equally universal. Who of us hasn’t felt: “I want to whisper to this broken bouquet it’s all right, darlings, I wasn’t good enough either.” In-between starting to read this book and finishing today, I suddenly, tragically, lost a very dear friend of mine. Someone who was so part of the furniture of my day-to-day world that it felt like the world had tilted off its axis. I found, as I moved further on in this book, that there came soothing tones: “I wonder what it’s like to live on sweetness and air, to have every branch and sprig a suitable bed for spinning dreams.” But, without a doubt, I was left with overriding feelings that were visceral and clear. I caught Covid for a second time just after the bereavement, and currently am struggling with if I will regain my senses of taste and smell. So, imagine my sense of synchronicity when I found a poem containing that same fear. These poems are indeed as the writer describes: “Now, when I think of poetry, I think it should be like that: hot, gleaming steel.” I would recommend this book to those who have known grief landing as it does, with clawed feet & black feathers. Creaking as it does, with black canine pad-foot and rancid breath; for, in the open, vulnerable, humanity of the writer sharing her personal history and world, you may find comfort and a hand to hold.

—Linnet Phoenix, author of Urban Mustang

Ain’t These Sorrows Sweet can be ordered at

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