Book Review: Punch & Judy – A Poetry Collection by Kelly Van Nelson

Punch & Judy…

About the Book:


Punch and Judy explores the tangled intensity of a toxic relationship. Bestselling author, Kelly Van Nelson, brings her trademark gritty style to this modern poetry collection. She takes readers on a rollercoaster journey from attraction and desire of a couple initially meeting, through the turbulence of abuse at the hands of a puppet master, to eventually finding the courage to cut strings and break free.

Punch and Judy challenges the taboo and delves into what goes on behind closed doors, bringing much needed conversation on domestic violence to the forefront of society.

My Thoughts:

Kelly Van Nelson has returned with her second poetry collection, Punch & Judy. This is a powerful story presented in poetry form. And it is a story, one that unfolds from beginning to end, told in poetry of all different formats. I don’t read enough poetry to be able to comment on the style and type of poem in terms of structure, but I do read a lot and I have a high appreciation for poetic writing. I read this book in one sitting and I encourage anyone else who reads it to do the same. It’s not a book you’ll want to put down.

Through poems of varying lengths and formats, we follow the toxic and violent relationship of Punch and Judy, from desirous beginning through to toxic ending. The story is captivating, the poems are exquisitely visual, explicit in their meaning and leaving nothing open to interpretation. This entire collection is a powerful and clear cut message from inside a relationship that is dominated by domestic violence. Using the mythology of Punch and Judy worked very well, the symbolism of Punch as the puppet-master, Judy needing to cut herself free; it really gave me goose-bumps. The poems are at times not easy to read, they do what their intention is, and I was overcome with a feeling of deep sadness for all of the women who enter relationships with such high hopes only to be trapped within their own personal horror story. However, there is hope within this story, strength and courage; Judy’s awareness of her situation, her building rage and desire to cut herself free, her triumph over the fate Punch had laid out for her. It’s a very empowering collection.

Once again, I am in awe of Kelly’s poetic ability, and her story telling too, to be able to successfully use poetry to craft a gripping story in this fashion. It’s a talent I entirely admire and couldn’t ever envisage achieving. I feel that with this second collection, Kelly Van Nelson has well and truly made her mark a permanent one on the Australian contemporary poetry scene.



There were many poems that stood out for me but I think these three were my favourite so I thought I’d share them here with you as a sample of the poetry you can expect within this collection. The format has been replicated as it appears within the book.

I could no longer
paint over the distress of
our relationship.
… There was nothing left to salvage.

Act I
dim lights
smoky bar
meet cute
Act II
smooth talk
rehearsed lines
word perfect
plot twist
didn’t see it coming
Act IX
leading man
pretended to love
(mis)leading lady
Act X
credits roll
new actress cast
directed by you

You are no longer the air I breathe.
You are the puncture in the lung
leaving me gasping as I collapse inside.

Thanks is extended to the author for providing me with a copy of Punch & Judy for review.

About the Author:

Kelly Van Nelson was born in the North East of England and lived in London, Edinburgh, and Cape Town before moving to Australia with her family. She is a mother of two amazing children, wife to her soul mate of over two decades, Managing Director of a Fortune 500 (Adecco), and bestselling author and poet represented by The Newman Agency. Kelly is also an advocate for bullying and domestic violence prevention initiatives and the founder of the Facebook group, Words Worth, challenging the world through the written, spoken, and visual word. Punch & Judy is her second published poetry collection.

Connect with Kelly:


Punch & Judy
Published by Kelly Van Nelson/Making Magic Happen Press
Released 1st August 2020

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Punch & Judy – A Poetry Collection by Kelly Van Nelson

  1. Pingback: Non-Fiction (General) Round Up: August & September 2020 | Australian Women Writers Challenge Blog

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