Review of (AFTER) Life: Poems and Stories of the Dead

(AFTER) Life: Poems and Stories of the Dead
Anthology. Edited by Renee M. Schell, Barbara Froman, Marta Svea Wallien. Purple Passion Press, $15.95 paperback (106p) ISBN:

(AFTER) Life: Poems and Stories of the Dead, Purple Passion Press' first anthology, is an exploration of the unknown. Far from being morbid, this collaborative work is a tribute to the departed, an acceptance of human fragility and ultimately a declaration of our ability to live in spite of death.
     In the editor's note, Renee M. Schell relates the profound sense of shared loss she experienced in the aftermath of a dear friend's baby boy being stillborn. Schell goes on to say, "A year after the death of her son - almost to the day - she gave birth to a second son, who lived. The decision she and her husband made to have a second child testifies to human resilience. And this resilience, I believe, reflects our need to believe in life over death."
     The varying styles of prose and poetry in this anthology serve as a reminder that we are united in the human experience. That is to say, whatever our individual backgrounds, we will all - in one way or another - come face to face with mortality and loss.
     Each of the fifty-one succinct poems and concise stories range in approach and perspective. From Bri Bruce's strong poetic imagery which captures the sense of loss so poignantly, to Shaun Avery's tragic, yet amusing story ‘Grave Diggers’ to Vuong Quoc Vu's elegantly written poems, this accumulative work reminds us that we are alive and ought to live accordingly.
     There is a profound sense of sadness in the book, and rightly so, but it is never maudlin. In fact, there are some light-hearted and humorous moments which lift the overall mood of the book considerably. Even in these playful areas, the consistency of purpose is maintained. There is pain here, but there is also a redemptive essence of restorative hope.
     There are no weak links within the thirty-eight contributing authors. The quality of writing is as consistent as the book's theme. However, Purple Passion Press might want to consider including a few fresher, less established writers in future anthologies; the bio pages read like a who's who in the world of publishing and academia.
     (AFTER) Life: Poems and Stories of the Dead is a finely-crafted anthology of relatable poems and stories which do, as the editor intended, testify to human resilience. (July 2015)

Purchase (AFTER) Life HERE.

Reviewer bio: Matthew J. Hall is a UK writer based in Bristol. His poetry chapbook, Pigeons and Peace Doves, is available through Blood Pudding Press. He reviews small press books at