Patricia Deaton, Review of Lisa Zerkle’s “Heart of Light”

by Patricia Deaton

by Lisa Zerkle
Finishing Line Press, 2013
ISBN: 978-1622291885

Lisa Zerkle’s poetry is, at once, enjoyable and easily understood, you think. Then, you go back through randomly-selected poems, re-read and find you didn’t get it all on the first go round.

That’s what I like about the poetry in Heart of the Light. It’s accessible and beyond. The first poem “Keeper of the Web” and the last, title poem, “Heart of the Light” both bear similarities in the casting of lines for rescue (whether spider web or ropes down a well) and suggest to me, resignation to the futility we all feel in life at times.

The poem within a poem, “Second Chances” is creative, meaningful and heartbreakingly-honest. But Lisa Zerkle’s poems stand you up against a wall with their honesty.

The best example of this, for me, is the poem about a mother and daughter’s relationship and the lasting effects (good or bad) throughout the life of both. It’s titled “When You Go, What Will You Leave?” This one left me slapped with guilt over my own personal history. But what good is any literature, if it doesn’t cause us to think or reflect?

I love “Chipmunk Sex,” but it would almost be better without the last line, “We both do what it takes,” because the poem shows us that, already and seems to wrap it up a little too much…for me, anyway.

Zerkle’s prose poems are fantastic. The first line of “Above One Hundred Feet,” draws us in right off the bat as all excellent prose should do: “The summer I teach my brother to kill, we sit on our driveway in triple-digit Texas heat, cement pebbling our sticky thighs while we watch centipedes traffic below.” In “Ritual,” a lonely, alcoholic woman’s happy hour packs a lot of emotional heft into just thirteen lines.

“How to Hold a Grudge” describes perfectly the qualities embodied in a grudge and is so creatively-graphic in drawing us in to experience (as if we didn’t know) how holding a grudge feels and then letting it go. I love this poem…a funhouse trip that moves fast, clutches and slings you around, then offers you freedom.

Poems in “Heart of the Light” are like that…different carnival rides that spin, entangle, drop and grab, and leave you wanting more. At the end of this book, you’ll want to buy another ticket.


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