Jenna Clare's "Water Runs Red" places a heavy emphasis on friendship than romantic relationships. (Illustration via Jaila Desper, University of Maryland)
Jenna Clare's "Water Runs Red" places a heavy emphasis on friendship than romantic relationships. (Illustration via Jaila Desper, University of Maryland)
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Jenna Clare's "Water Runs Red" places a heavy emphasis on friendship than romantic relationships. (Illustration via Jaila Desper, University of Maryland)

Move over, Rupi Kaur, there’s a new queen of Instagram poetry.

On May 5, Jenna Clare released her fantastical collection of poetry, entitled “Water Runs Red,” on Amazon. Described as “riveting, thought-provoking and elegant” by No. 1 New York Times’ best-selling author Sasha Alsberg, Clare’s multimodal debut gives readers an intimate glimpse of her life and journey to self-love through themes of identity, love, friendship and mental health.

The collection casts a variety of fairytale characters to present a narrative of good versus evil, or the people versus governing forces. Clare uses tropes associated with witches, princesses, kings and other villains to tell her story of love and heartbreak, and give those who are not being heard by the majority a voice.

Ultimately, “Water Runs Red” does a marvelous job in breaking down the difficulties of functioning in a world where tyrants threaten to obscure any sign of goodness left to fight for, and describes the sense of unity that occurs when you rise against an oppressive system.

what if my story

doesn’t have a prince

charming

does that still make me

the princess?”

The Artistic Concept

In this unique collection, Clare uses a variety of photographs, prose, calligraphy and paperwork to establish her very modern and minimal aesthetic. Watercolor backgrounds blend in beautifully with poems about doubt and fear, adorned with images that make each verse feel like the ultimate interactive experience. You can almost hear an orchestra building in tempo as you turn the page.

For Clare, an inveterate BookTuber, putting together the collection was a challenge, as she’s commented publicly on the difficulties of establishing a sense of continuity in poetry publications. “It’s very different from other poetry collections, I think,” Clare said. “But in order to get to that place, I had to really be creative and work hard.”

And her hard work is clearly visible in the incredibly detailed spreads that connect text and image. The book shines as a contemporary piece, standing out not only because of how Clare weaves her own narrative into the tale, but also how carefully each of the five sections is woven together.

Although “Water Runs Red” was carefully crafted, Clare did not always have a straightforward idea of how she wanted to present her story. Classical poetry can be a bit bland and not as accessible to everyone, which is something the young poet is very aware of and wants to avoid in her own writing.

“Poetry is such a different writing process for me than writing a fiction novel, or even writing a short story or a smaller fictional work,” said Clare. “I try to keep it a little more story-like than just a collection of poems.”

“i washed my hands

of the bad blood

but it kept coming back”

— dear lady macbeth

 Clare takes inspiration from her close friend Amanda Lovelace, author of the “Women Are Some of Magic” poetry series. Both women embrace the contemporary Instagram poetry structure that has become extremely popular because of its approachability to readers.

“Water Runs Red” also adopts some of the visuals that go along with this contemporary poetry, but she’s added her own artistic elements that go beyond a simple sketch to accompany a line or two of poetry.

The Key Topic

One of the most important topics in “Water Runs Red” is friendship, and how regular relationships can be just as painful as romantic ones.

The title of “friend” in this collection is interesting because of how Clare treats the connection between two people. Friendships mold and challenge you just as much as romantic partners do, and Clare is clear in relaying this message.

When friends break up — when princesses feud — there is a sinking feeling that comes with disappointment. Romantic relationships aren’t a part of everyone’s narrative, but friendship are something that all readers can relate to.

The Takeaway Message

Overall, “Water Runs Red” is a fantastic poetic debut that you should explore. Goodreads members rate the collection at an average of four stars, and Amazon reviews are just as stellar.

The beauty of Clare’s writing is how seamlessly she can tell her own story of heartbreak while simultaneously embracing those who feel alone, scared and lost. It’s a celebration of the wickedness that’s in you, and explains how to find peace with the idea that perfection does not equal normalcy.

Time heals, which is a part of your own, personal journey. There are familial tyrants, villains in friend groups and the demons in your head that keep you from blooming.

Once you break free from these restraints, and learn to embrace yourself for everything that you are and what you are not, then water will run red for those who’re against you.

“Water Runs Red” is now available as an Amazon e-book, and in print.

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