Twisted Velvet Chains
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Twisted Velvet Chains is a collection of poems which follows the experiences of one woman growing up with a bipolar, drug addicted, gothic musician mother. Each poem represents specific moments of their life that embrace vivid rich imagery, and illustrate the turmoil of emotions both experience while together. The collection is divided into four parts that flow one into the other from childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and post-death.


If Jessica Bell could choose only one creative mentor, she'd give the role to Euterpe, the Greek muse of music and lyrics. This is not only because she currently resides in Athens, Greece, but because of her life as a 30-something Australian-native contemporary fiction author, award-winning poet and singer/songwriter/guitarist, whose literary inspiration often stems from songs she's written.

Being the daughter of a semi-famous rock 'n' roll duo from Melbourne, she grew up surrounded by song. For a while it seemed logical to travel the musician's path, especially when her first band, spAnk, hit it off in the Melbourne indie music scene back in the late 90s. Although she spent her years writing and recording dozens of songs she decided she also had a love for the written word, and began to pursue a career as a writer.

She started as a poet, drawing from her musical background and etching her thoughts and feelings into verse. Those stanzas soon turned into sentences and paragraphs, and eventually into published books. Her literary voice is said to overflow with "lyrical descriptions, unique metaphors, tight dialogue, and an abundance of sensory detail." She has also been told she has the ability to take a seemingly ordinary three-chord type story and turn it into a main stage event.

In addition to her novels, her poetry collections (including FABRIC, which was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards in 2012), and her pocket writing guides (WRITING IN A NUTSHELL SERIES), she has published a variety of works in online and print literary journals and anthologies, including Australia's Cordite Review, and the anthologies 100 STORIES FOR QUEENSLAND and SHADOWS AT THE STAGE DOOR, both released through Australia's, eMergent Publishing.

Additionally, she is the Co-Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and makes a living as an editor/writer for English Language Teaching publishers worldwide, such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, Macmillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

Note: Check out the Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop she annually runs. In 2012 she had Chuck Sambuchino of Writer's Digest, this year, 2013, she has Katharine Sands, New York literary agent as the main instructor.


"Twisted Velvet Chains is a vivid, unexpected gut-kick, rarely seen in poetry. Jessica Bell's voice is a terrifying mix of crying child, angry teen, and screaming adult heard inside the rock and roll tornado of abuse. Her use of music and unique form create a vibrating song of poems demanding to be heard. Readers will remember TVC 's haunting chords long after the last stanza is struck."- Alaine DiBenedetto Benard , poet and artist

"Through the poet's adept and generous use of clipped lines, staccatos, onomatopoeia, smells, and descriptions of icky body fluids, these poems tell the story of a mother and daughter hopelessly linked by love and hate. Jessica Bell doesn't let up. She is a genius at portraying the raw and dark parts of life through her use of words and where she places them on the page. This is an exciting and wonderful read." --Madeline Shaples, author of Leaving The Hall Light On , co-author of The Emerging Goddess book of poems and photography , and co-editor of The Great American Poetry Show , Volumes 1 and 2

"A bold, unique voice, Jessica Bell's words leap into existence with the bravery of raw, vivid imagery and language aimed straight at the heart of the matter. Masterful, lyrical and haunting, Twisted Velvet Chains is a pulls no punches approach to tackling painful, delicate subject matter with a refined skill and subtle grace." --Debbie Berk, Editor of The Stray Branch.

"In Twisted Velvet Chains you enter a landscape that is sensual and metaphysical, comic and tragic, where Gothic Neanderthals give birth to songs, and a little girl's vulnerabilities leak out from the pages. Jessica Bell is a shape shifter; explorer of childhood memories, and observer of our existential loneliness, alienation, and detachment. --Mark Van Aken Williams, Author of Circus by Moonlight and The Prophet of Sorrow.

" Twisted Velvet Chains might best be described as a collection of fractured memories viewed through the kaleidoscope of a tortured mother-child relationship. Even if the side effects of reading may be a bit of nausea and dizziness, you can't extract yourself from Bell 's twisted poetic chains until you've read them all." -- Angie Ledbetter , Co-publishing Editor of Rose & Thorn Journal


This is an extraordinarily insightful collection, semi-autobiographical, I believe, of the author's experience growing up with a bipolar parent.

The images are by turn wrenching, tearing and soaring. Jessica never allows the traumatic experiences from her past to lessen her passion for life but takes them and uses them powerfully to lay bare and so share with others her coping process.

Poetry is often a coping process. So is Writing, so is painting, sculpting and any number of other creative outlets. They help us exteriorise the trauma's, the emotional turmoil we feel but can't fully express. Why, because we are 'the carers' and have to keep caring, a load of responsibility that does not take in to account that we might be children ourselves or the other parent with the children to care for besides the damaged partner or the partner who still has to hold down a job so bills will be paid, food will appear on the table etc. We have to keep on keeping on for the sake of the damaged one. But who is there who hears us?

Jessica's poetry gives a voice to all those aching and breaking under the burden of a damaged loved one. It is the heroic voice of a survivor. A voice that is ultimately triumphant even thought the scars show.

The first poem in the collection sets the tone "Bipolar Tongues". The mother sanely, for once, states 'excuses abuse trust', an effort to pile condemnation on a daughter already overburdened. But in the duplicitous way of mental illness, the daughter knows it is also an admission of guilt, maternal guilt at not being 'mother' and abnegating that responsibility to her own child. "Excuses"... [first verse]

Excuses abuse trust
she said
my mother said
and my mum said

[and the final verse]

It came from her,
not them;
not the ones
that spoke in
bipolar tongues ...

The last poem is on of the most painful in the collection. Though, in real life, her mother never succeeded in suicide, each attempt was a partial death, an increasingly crushing burden, a killing of relationship in a killing relationship,'if you hit me too much I go numb'.

The last lines are a cry of loss, a summation of everything that went wrong and could have been different if...

Perhaps if I'd hugged you
- said, I loved you -
you wouldn't have killed yourself.

This book should be an inspiration and an encouragement to others in Jessica's situation to put pen to paper, brush to canvas and SCREAM!


WOW...Where do I start?

From the first insightful poem of 'Bipolar Tongues' right through to the very emotive and touching finale of 'Thorns Like Dough' Jessica Bell draws you in and keeps you with her through the stark reality of a Daughter's relationship with her Bipolar Mother, from childhood to adulthood.

Try as I might, I just could not put this book down.
Jessica employs a wonderful array of poetic forms, including a wonderful double cleve in the form of 'Crossed Wires' where she gives us four poems for the price of one. Each column forms it's own poem when read downwards and the fourth is the whole piece read together horizontally. This form is not easy to achieve and demonstrates great poetic skill.

This is not a run of the mill poetry book, not by a long chalk. By telling a complete story from begining to end, it becomes so much more. Don't take my word for it...try it for yourself, I challenge anyone to be unmoved by this.

Jessica Bell is definitely one to watch.


Reading Jessica Bell's poetry is like eating a steak dinner. It's filling and gives you something substantial to chew on.

In Twisted Velvet Chains, Jessica Bell covers all the bases. She doesn't just tell us what it's like to grow up with a bi-polar mother, she shows us by exploiting tactile details. The smell of tape, the sound of a guitar string, the stickiness of chewing gum, the "innocence" of a French kiss. A must read for anyone who loves vivid, passionate, visceral poetry.


It's been a long time since I've read a book of poetry, so when I sat down when Bell's 'Twisted Velvet Chains', I wasn't quite sure what to expect.


The poems grab you by the throat and won't let go. Visceral and powerful, Bell masterfully evokes image after image. Words become hammers, striking blows. It sounds a horrible cliché, but I couldn't put it down.


In a word--wow. I don't think I've ever read such raw pain and anger put so eloquently. At times I wasn't sure if I was brave enough to finish it. But I did, and it was worth it. I swallowed it hard in one sitting. Truly beautiful and unique.