Debut poetry collection, Slaughterhouse, out now from Karavan Press

Melissa Home Page


Melissa Sussens (she/her) is a queer South African veterinarian, poet and editor. Her work has appeared in Kissing Dynamite, SFWP Quarterly and Isele Magazine, among many others. She has performed at the Poetry In McGregor festival, Off The Wall, The Commons and The Red Wheelbarrow Poetry Collective where she also hosts weekly poetry readings. Melissa placed 2nd in the 2020 New Contrast National Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the 2022 prize. She was also selected for the Poetry for Human Rights anthology, Between the Silence, in 2021. A Best of the Net nominee, she assists in teaching Megan Falley’s popular online writing workshop, Poems That Don’t Suck. By day she works as a small animal veterinarian and whenever she’s not doctoring animals, she can be found immersed in writing, editing, or reading poems. Melissa’s debut full length collection, Slaughterhouse, was published by Karavan Press in 2022 and shortlisted for the 2024 HSS Awards. She lives Cape Town with her spouse and their two dogs.


“‘I watched death’ is the first line of Melissa Sussens’s debut collection. Never have I trusted a poet more to guide me by way of a book than I do Melissa – who has worked both in a veterinary clinic and a slaughterhouse. Fluent in the message that is at the core of art – we die – Sussens’s poetry is a relentless reminder in the utter thrill and sacredness of living. These poems find both the slaughter and the house, the home, in all the scenes of a life: from stalking an ex on Instagram, to coming out to your mother, to biting your nails, to girlhood, to loving in the face of bigotry. Of course this book will encourage readers to reckon with the humanity of animals, but what’s unexpected is the way it will help us acknowledge both the beast and the fawn, the Grim Reaper and the Angel of Death, within ourselves. Melissa brings her vocational history into these pieces at the line level – with lyricism oscillating between both brutal blade and gentle hand at once. I have never read any book like it.”
Megan Falley, author of Drive Here and Devastate Me

“Blood animates and stains these remarkable poems, but Melissa Sussens asks us not to look away. Slaughterhouse is a hauntingly powerful debut. We get to see a poet grapple with ongoing legacies of vulnerability and violence, death and desire, all while experimenting cleverly with form. Some of these poems dripped off the page and stayed with me for days – I loved them.”
Maneo Mohale, author of Everything is a Deathly Flower

“A brave, searing collection. Out of a difficult year of compulsory service at a slaughterhouse, Sussens has forged a plain–spoken, lyrical poetic voice able to ‘gut truth, / exhume the body of memory.’ Whether chronicling the forging of a queer sexual identity, the loss of innocence or its renewal through requited love and poetry itself, these unflinching poems refuse to be forgotten. In response to the inevitable risk of loving, she writes: ‘Sometimes I wish / I never knew the word merge …’ All the more poignant, then, that the collection should bear witness to precisely such points of fraught, perilous contact between self and world. A remarkable body of work that will sustain many rereadings.”
Jacques Coetzee, author of An Illuminated Darkness


(International sales only)

Local (South Africa) book sales available from all major bookshops


Love Without Insulation in SFWP Quaterly

My Single Bed Is Too Wide For My Body in Germ Magazine

Statistic In Waiting in Isele Magazine

Ode to the Green Kalahari & Driftwood in Botsotso Literary Journal

My Father in Odd Magazine

Merge in Ja. Magazine

Daisy in Germ Magazine

Friend in Germ Magazine

Ode To A Township, From The Perspective Of A White Girl From The Suburbs in Stanzas Poetry Magazine Issue 22

Spell For Time in Kissing Dynamite

Segments Of Sunshine in ClemenGold Writing Competition (Audio)

In A Post-Gender-Based-Violence World Of Survivors in Anti-Heroin Chic

The Museum of Lonely Girlhood in Anti-Heroin Chic

I Am Where I Am Going in Capsule Stories

Become in Capsule Stories

Goddess of Knife and Stove in Capsule Stories

Instead of Measuring My Life in Productivity in Isele Magazine

New Veterinarian Spends a Compulsory Year Working at a Slaughterhouse in New Contrast (New Contrast National Poetry Prize Runner-up, 2020)

Gender-based violence: a South African pantoum in New Contrast

How To Fall In Love In Less Than Seven Days in Gnashing Teeth Publishing

Searching for Yellow in Poetry Potion

A Simple Man in Stanzas Poetry Magazine Issue 22

Joy Mechanics in Ja. Magazine

The Whale in Ja. Magazine

Finding My Face in The AVBOB Poetry Competition

Beginning with a Frog and Ending in an Airport in Horse Egg Literary (Best of the Net 2021 Nomination)

Sentenced in Wine Cellar Press

Abecedarian For Death in Hotazel Review

Grigio Girls in Second Chance Lit

Femicide: A Found Poem in Poetry for Human Rights

Ode To The Razor in Sledgehammer Lit

Clover In July in Odd Magazine


4 June 2024: Open Book Workshop – Society Through a Poetic Lens


Slaughterhouse Online Launch Party – Hosted by Megan Falley

The Red Wheelbarrow Poetry Collective Reading 2023

The Red Wheelbarrow Poetry Reading 2022

Spoken Label Poetry Reading

Spoken Label Interview