Things I’m Reading Thursday #24

Expletive Deleted by Heather Bell

Heather has been featured a lot here at ONS. I first came across her stuff a good three or so years ago, as a young deviantART-er, and since then she’s been a ONS Featured Poet, and I reviewed her fantastic debut chapbook, Nothing Unrequited Here, when it came out. Heather is also the author of the sold-out collection How To Make People Love You and the chapbook Facts of Combat; her work has been published in Rattle, the Columbia Review and Grasslimb, among others, and she was the winner of the New Letters Poetry Prize 2009.

So, you may have gathered that I kind of love Heather’s poetry. I’m the proud owner of all the books she’s produced to date, and I’m always excited to read anything new she publishes. But I’m going to stick my neck out and say that I think Expletive Deleted contains her best work thus far.

This is a visceral, honest, disturbing and touching book about love, anger, loss, frustration and guilt. Bell looks candidly at the themes of depression and mental illness — documenting the weird and complex places that the mind can take you, from the first twinges of anxiety right through to the decision to fire your therapist. I’m no stranger to depression, or to therapy, and so many times in Expletive Deleted I found myself thinking “yes — yes, that’s it exactly.”

“How to explain

that I spent the last two years as a mad
woman? Everyone suggests that I refer to
that time as a “personal matter”, instead
of strange, or drowned,

or tailed by men with hound faces.”

But this is not a wholly bleak collection — one of the best things about Heather’s work is the dark and self-referential humour that runs through it. Take, for example, ‘The Male Poet’, which begins with the lines:

“At first I am not sure what to name my
new dog. Collins, Eliot, Whitman? I
finally decide on Basho because of his
constant peeing on my banana
plant.”

However, Heather’s greatest talent is her ability to craft an absolutely showstopping end to a poem. Time and time again these narratives leave you breathless, shocked, moved.

“The
therapist evaluates

the situation like it is a police report:
woman’s face is a tight shiny surface of
worry. Woman’s hands keep moving over
the disappointment. Woman

says she hasn’t told the truth for years,
and we have to believe her.”

Buy your copy here. Read more of Heather’s poems here. Do one or the other — or preferably both — as soon as you can. This poetic star is definitely on the rise.

(Photo by alshepmcr)

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One Response to “Things I’m Reading Thursday #24”

  1. H Says:

    Derp. I am such an idiot and haven’t checked in on ONS for a long time and didn’t know you did this :(

    Thank you soooo much!!!

    Damn you for not telling me (did you? Have I been asleep???) … though I should know to obsessively check ONS like I used to!! Bleh, I also wish I had mentioned ONS and you at my interview today … I am a terrible person. I was so nervous!

    -H.