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Auteanna Bay
Complexion of a Rose
Auteanna Bay, author
Auteanna Bay, brings to you a collection of short stories and poems. written in an unorthodox type of way. Stories and poems range from romance, fantasy, spiritual thoughts and more. A simple way to introduce her writing into the world before coming out with more work.
Bay’s debut is a walk through a shadowy garden that is deliberately unkempt and effusively wild. The poet’s choice of works to feature—including visceral depictions of self-harm and even some werewolf erotica—may lack clear cohesion, but Complexion of a Rose offers instead an exciting degree of unpredictability. Structured into four categories associated with different colors of rose, Bay’s collection delves into depression and suicide ideation, spirituality with a focus on the divine feminine and neopaganism, romance, and political commentary on race, capitalism, and gun violence, along with a selection of searingly emotional but somewhat elliptical short stories that feature unnamed characters at moments of intimate urgency and even suspense.

Bay demonstrates a strong hand at quick, epigrammatic description—“A tall slender man with just enough muscle to prove a point”—and at connecting the concrete to the spiritual. In the “Purple Rose” section, which explores connections to something grander, with bold admonitions (“Connect with the blood moon and feel the power between your legs”) and a recurring unnamed figure who appears as “Mother Nature in human form.” Bay writes in “Lanterns and Roses” that “she was the odd form of a new kind of art. Spirituality”. This idea of spirituality as art is rich in theological and philosophical insight and deserves expansion, though the text itself would have benefitted from a more thorough edit.

A final section marks a sharp departure into the material world with potent poems that read as calls to action for equity and inclusion, along with story-poem “After Party,” a rallying cry for Black empowerment that reaches back into America’s past and looks toward the future: “Play our drums, dance barefooted, talk amongst each other and find your peace. One day my people we will be free.” The journey through this collection’s floral landscape is often dark and confusing, but rare moments of joy, wonder, and clear purpose are beautiful as a rose.

Takeaway: Pointedly unpredictable poems on depression, spirituality, and empowerment.

Comparable Titles: Rupi Kaur, Courtney Peppernell.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: B