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Marketable Poetry: Pillow Thoughts

Pillow Thoughts by Courtney Peppernell.

A 256 page poetry anthology with a black cover adorned by white lettering.  A jellyfish drifts alone in an endless black abyss on the front. On the back is an endorsement by The Chainsmokers who call it “one of the most enjoyable books we have read in a long time!” Underneath, there’s a blurb that encourages you to “make a cup of tea and let yourself feel.” When I bought the book at the BU Barnes and Noble, it was #4 in their National Campus Bestsellers: Fiction list. It’s one of those books they have that always has the 20% off sticker on it.

Courtney Peppernell is an LGBTQ+ author and poet based in Sydney, Australia. According to her official website, Pillow Thoughts was first published in 2016 and was a bestseller. It was re-published in August 2017 with The Chainsmokers endorsement.

The first thing that drew me to this book was the jellyfish. In fact, before I bought the book I referred to it as “The Stupid Jellyfish Book” because I knew I had to get it but could never remember the title. For me, and I’m willing to guess for a lot of other people as well, the jellyfish was enough to pick up the book. The jellyfish is a unique, quirky little animal. It catches your attention just enough to justify breaking out that debit card. So, what does it have to do with the book?

In the beginning there’s a little blurb about the jellyfish on the cover. Turns out that it’s named You (yes, as in the pronoun) and maybe You has a hard time being themselves, but in the end, “You is going to make it.”

See what Peppernell did there?

After that, the jellyfish is never brought up again. It shows up as an illustration between chapters, maybe by itself or with a jelly friend, but it is never referenced directly.  It appears on the last page of the book and… that’s it. It literally drifts to the end of the book doing nothing, just like a real jellyfish.

Is there a problem with that? Yes, actually. There’s a very powerful symbol in the jellyfish. It’s an animal known for being very inactive, at the complete mercy of the unyielding tides of the ocean, and the jaws of hungry sea turtles. It doesn’t hunt; food comes to it. Beach-goers hate it because all it does is get in the way; a small, helpless creature in a vast and incomprehensible universe that can’t help but bump into things sometimes. It’s very relatable to this book’s demographic of sad college coeds. This theme could have been expanded upon and explored throughout the book.  There was a lot of lost potential here.

After reading the first two chapters of Pillow Thoughts, I felt the same way I did after reading the first two chapters of Atlas Shrugged: vaguely intrigued, but ultimately bored out of my mind. The writing is homogeneous. All of the poems blend together, and even though they are sorted into different sections, it all feels the same. Nothing is very memorable or quotable. At best, it has a Millennial Chicken Soup for the Soul type encouragement. Maybe there’s some sad parts about heartbreak or loneliness, but in the end, there’s always something sweet to perk you up. At worst, it’s as generic as that Chainsmokers song that was all over the place a while ago. You know the oneーthe EDM one about being in love? Anyway, the poetry is very prose-y, with proper punctuation and uppercase letters. Foul language is kept to a minimum. I think. I don’t know- I don’t remember.

This isn’t a book meant to be read in one sitting.  All of the poems stand out on their own, but the fact that they’re all together emphasizes just how similar and unoriginal they are. Peppernell explicitly states on the back cover that the anthology is divided into the chapters “to read when you feel you need them most.”  Translation: buy it, forget about it, flip through it when the power goes out during a blizzard over winter break.

But to its credit, I will admit that flipping through it only when you “need” it is a good way to read the book.  It’s nice to read something reassuring or pretty or gentle, especially during times of stress. But like candy or Ayn Rand, too much in one sitting will make you sick to your stomach, and distract you from fulfilling your duties as a participant in the free market.

Not really. To be fair, you get exactly what you’d expect when you buy a book endorsed by a generic pop group with a floating bag that’s 95% water on the cover: emptiness.

Not good for plane rides or long car trips. Pretty enough to post on VSCO with a latte. You don’t have to read it if you don’t want to.

Angela Romilla ’21 is a Staff Writer for The Hub.  She can be contacted at

Posted by on December 14, 2017. Filed under Around Campus. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.