by Les Kay, Sandra Marchetti, Allie Marini, and Janeen Pergrin Rastall
ELJ Publications, 2016
$12.99,paperback, ISBN: 9781941617458
Like all great love stories, Heart Radicals, ELJ's collaborative chapbook comprised of the work of four poets, merges various styles and aesthetics into a harmonized chorus. Like partners in love, the voices in this collection are compatible, yet distinct; they sing in unison, yet no one voice swallows any other. They are "...figments/ all, of circling, of probabilities." These poems feed each other, challenge each other, and skim each other's edges; above all, they hold each other and us close.
One of the many ways in which Heart Radicals succeeds is through weaving seemingly disparate poems together without noting the author's names until the end of the work. In this way, we concentrate on the union and interplay of these poems rather than on the individual poets. "Love arrives like your Aunt Evelyn/ when she bursts into the kitchen/ to add something to the sauce./ Once she has started,/ you do not want her to stop" we read in "Love Arrives." Each poem in Heart Radicals serves as an ingredient in this sauce, and without each, the dish falls flat. Over the course of this work, readers come to know by style, tone, and language to whom each poem belongs, and yet that's never the collection's focus. "She stretches her fingers - still laced through mine -/ before hugging our hands back together" we learn in "& the songbirds keep singing like they know the score," mirroring these interlaced poems, crafted by different hands.
Heart Radicals is above all a journey, both physical and emotional. We travel "3,000 Miles to California," "...the big sky,/ filling up our windshield"; by "Little Car" as "...the lit/ wind scribbling your car, the match/ marring the ground - a burned/ underpinning -" takes us through the dark; and "Westward" as the narrator rides out of one place and into another, as yet unknown: "I roam the city/ murmuring I am// young, my heart is strong,/ and I can take it." Readers move freely within these spaces, soaking in their beauty, their despair, their disquietude. Through their struggles and open hearts, we are released. "However long you look, you will never/ find the contours of an evening like this" we are warned in "Map Making." And yet, "you might forgive yourself in such moments -/ ...for slipping into/ solipsism and imagining streets that offer/ secrets like a lover." We forgive.
And we are reminded that the little things make convergence and forgiveness possible, both in poetry and in partnership. "What keep you from swerving/ are the daily motes of love:/ the single sock, the washed dish,/ the wood lot walks, his soft lips." For love is nothing without small joys, "native azaleas// fresh cut for crystal vases -/ foliating, speckled-light." Heart Radicals is one of these joys.
H E A R T R A D I C A L S B Y L E S K A Y , A L L I E M A R I N I , S A N D R A M A R C H E T T I & J A N E E N P E R G R I N R A S T A L L
R E V I E W B Y A M Y S T R A U S S F R I E D M A N
H E R M E N E U T I C C H A O S J O U R N A L
Amy Strauss Friedman is the author of the chapbook Gathered Bones Are Known To Wander (forthcoming from Red Bird Chapbooks). She is a regular contributor to the newspaper Newcity, and a staff writer for Yellow Chair Review. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Red Paint Hill, FLAPPERHOUSE, Jet Fuel Review, HOUND, Lunch Ticket and elsewhere. Amy earned her MA in Comparative Literature from Northwestern University. She lives in Chicago and teaches English at Harper College. Her work can be found at amystraussfriedman.com
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