Heaven or This, 2016
"Sixteen and changelings, / and I choose you in broken wings, I choose you in / burning stakes, magnet eyes, infinite amnesia, / I choose you out of untried hearts and endless / ashes, I choose you. I choose you. In the story / that matters, in the story that exists, two girls / are running, the fires forget how to burn, / and always, always, I choose you."
Heaven or This: a collection of love letters in poem form. A story of a girl who loves girls, and the beauty in that, the terror, the yearning and the warning, the endless confusion and innate peace, at once shatteringly delicate and softly visceral.
Heaven or This: a fearless, electric manifesto. A pastel incarnation of grace. The story of a girl who loves girls so deeply that it feels like loving doves or knives.
Heaven or This has been downloaded over 15,000 times to date & has a 4.5-star overall rating on Goodreads. You can talk about it on social media using the hashtag #heavenorthis. This collection contains the poems “Girlhood”, “Cherry Blossoms”, “Legend”, “The Rememberings”, “April Rainsong”, “Love in Goddess-Speak”, “Portrait of Coven / Portrait of Burning”, “Prayer of the Girl Who Falls in Love with Girls”, “Aquiver”, “Orbitals (War Story in Which Every Side is Losing)”, “Serendipity / Conviction”, “Slow Heat Epiphany”, “Bella Ragazza (II)”, & “Map to Staying”.
“Like buying a gift for someone who has everything, it’s hard to find words to describe a work like this. Gently heartbreaking in her prose, and in images filled with such bold love, Winters leaves readers with the wistful taste of sweet peaches. This work is a breath of fresh, summery air. Particularly excellent if you need a work of poetry to dust the cobwebs, shake the rug, and leave your house sparkly clean and delightfully full of hope.”
“I haven’t had a poetry book move me like this in awhile … It’s quite simply the most beautiful thing you’ll read this week.”
“I have tears in my eyes and an indescribable feeling in my chest. This chapbook was absolutely beautiful, it was everything I did not know I wanted and so desperately needed.”
“There is a clear cut honesty, a vulnerability that you sense from reading that opens up the space in your heart to let the words inside … You will be caught in the hurricane of beautiful prose from page one. It is an ode to pure love against the face of ignorance. Winters shapes the words of hope into being with this collection while taking up issues of heteronormativity, culture, and lack of representation.”
“Poignant, dangerous, mysterious and most of all intimate, truthful and compelling.”
“Everything about this book is real and raw. The quiet, breathtaking simplicity of being a girl in love with a girl. The unvoiced frustrations at a non-accepting family. The feelings of realization and despair, of being unseen. The innocent teenaged promises of forever. All of it is captured perfectly within these poems, and it's beautiful.”
"This book spoke to my soul."
“If I’d been able to write this well at the age of 16? Forget about it. This was so tender. So soft. Topaz describes a love that transcends language but manages to put it into that anyways … I want to keep all of this soft inside of me forever.”
“This is a powerful collection by a powerful writer, one who masters each emotional register with both skill and a genuine, heartfelt joy for language.”
“In Heaven or This I found strength, and peace, and I have thought about it more than once since I laid it down. Winters created a collection full of warmth and believe me when I say that I am truly looking forward to more of her fearless work.”
“I am in awe of this girl and her ability to infuse every word with emotion so deep. Her sentences captivated me, enthralled me. I can give no higher praise. Oh, to feel love so deeply and to express it so beautifully.”
“Topaz’s words ooze fireworks as they put a spell on you and ensnare your heart. This makes me feel so many things. It’s sad, it’s beautiful, it’s divine.”
"So breathtakingly real."
“this tore me to shreds. i am pools of singing blood. i am a painting of sorrow and understanding. by gods, this was absolutely beautiful. i need more, more, more. i need more of this universe where everything hits you like a tornado and lights you up with knowledge of yourself and how much you can give, how much can be taken from you. thank you, topaz, for this treasure.”
“At once … terrifying and tender.”
“An absolute tour-de-force … Every poem is full of fiery passion, and yet maintains a quiet dignity.”
“Winters takes the beauty, the fear, the anxious hopes, and the soft rebellion of girls loving girls to fistful heights, framing love songs within battle cries, and holiness within sacrilege … She encourages us to understand that the love found between girls is not only worthy of validation, but celebration.”
“Topaz Winters has this way with words which causes every single sentence to feel like magic and stardust, and every single poem took my breath away and filled me with so many emotions—mostly joy—that I had tears streaming down my face while reading it. But it gave me so much strength at the same time. This is definitely one of those poetry collections I will turn to when I feel a bit hopeless, because I know that the poems in Heaven or This will make me feel hopeful again.”
"There is nail polish, and guns, and pancakes, and saris, and springtime. There is love, and love is a battle, love is spiritual, love is secular, love is together and love is alone... There's pictures but only in your head, and there's sounds but only if you say them. ... They're poems about girls who love girls, or maybe just a girl who loves a girl, but it's also life. And rather than suggesting that a girl who loves a girl is something outside of life's normalcy, it's closer to the opposite. In your breakfast foods and in your makeup drawers and in your arsenals of words or weapons or whatever it is you like to fight with—there are the girls who love each other."
“I’m speechless. This was absolutely beautiful.”
“There’s a ferocity to the words that defy the constructs and expectations that society places on girls and girls growing up.”