May 22, 2024

Nikki Howard is a junior English major at Wittenberg University and the self-published author of “Ginger Tea,” a poignantly raw and honest collection of poems about heartbreak, mental health and learning to “be better.”

After being admitted to a mental hospital on multiple occasions for depression and suicidal thoughts, Howard decided to create and publish “Ginger Tea” to build herself back up from the heartbreak of a broken relationship and encourage others going through similar pain.

“It’s a part of my story,” Howard said of her struggle with suicide and mental illness, “and it’s also part of the story of the book…it’s very sad and dramatic, because that’s who I am.”

“Ginger Tea” follows the progression of a short-lived but potent relationship between Howard and a boy, a romance that Howard describes as “intense and all at once.”

“Ginger Tea” has been through two publications. Howard, under the pen name N. L. Byrd, spent only three summer months putting the first publication of the poems together. She initially published it as a story of her loving two people rather than one. Howard admits in a note at the beginning of the book that the second, fictional love she wrote about was “merely a gimmick that looked good on paper.”

Dissatisfied with the lie in the story, Howard withdrew the first publication and republished it over the course of only one month, removing the second person and adding a few new poems and some longer narrative pieces. She also designed the cover of the new book, a photograph of flowers that the boy had given her.

“It really didn’t take that long,” Howard explained, “because I was so happy and excited to get it done.” 

Howard chose to write her story through poetry because to her, “love happens in moments, not chapters.”

“Poetry just kind of flowed out, and I don’t know how else to explain that,” Howard said. “I really like non-fiction, and poetry is that neat mesh, where it can be non-fictional, but it has its own little melody to it, and it’s short and sweet, and I really like that because you can say so much in so little.”

Howard’s story is as heart-achingly beautiful as it is encouraging to anyone who reads it. The fleeting moments she captures of her own experiences are powerful and emotionally moving, even to someone inexperienced with poetry.

 “I think we learn most from people through experience, and sometimes we can’t have those same experiences ourselves,” Howard said. “We’ll read memoirs, and we won’t have the same life as them, but we can still learn valuable lessons from them…maybe they’re struggling with losing something, maybe they’re struggling with mental health, and I’m hoping that maybe it can help someone. Whatever they can take from it, I hope that it’s something rather than nothing.”

Howard hopes to continue writing in the future, hoping that the feedback from this book will help her improve and push her further in her career. She has an idea for a future book of what she calls “rant poetry”.

“I write it all in one sit-down,” Howard said of her rant poetry. “I sit down, write it all, and I don’t really edit it or anything like that.” Howard hopes to call the upcoming collection “Sex, Drugs, and Trap Music.”

“Ginger Tea” is available to purchase on Amazon.

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