Onion Heart: The Selected Works of Alise Versella by Alise Versella

Onion Heart: The Selected Works of Alise Versella

Peel Back Your Layers
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This new poetry collection from Versella (Five Foot Voice, 2011, etc.), the second in a series, chronicles the passions of romantic love.

The poet’s penchant for sensual imagery, including synesthesia of taste and touch, continues in this latest book. Love is still an addiction in these poems, but the speaker’s self-awareness seems greater. The two-page prose poem “Wants: Part Two” that opens “Self Reflection,” the first section, acknowledges that “Life has no road map” but warns that caution may be restrictive: “So don’t cower in the back alleys of your fear and let anything or anybody hold you back.” An echo of the previous book’s title shows up in an early poem: “She felt just a bit deformed / Like somehow this body of hers / Was too small for the big soul / Trapped inside.” This is a poet who demands to be heard, and many of the poems are informed by a preoccupation with gaining control; self-expression is the priority: “And my voice would ring out louder and stronger / Than any voice could ever preach.” Echoes of the Beat poets also appear fleetingly: “Baby,” a speaker says in a moment of anguish, “the stars are dying.” Later, the speaker says, “Howl to the night / They will never forget this sight.” The howls in this book also reach back for inspiration in Walt Whitman’s barbaric yawp, though anxiety flavors the result: “I open my cavernous hole of a mouth / But nothing good enough will ever come out.” Something very good does come out, however, in the imagery: comets plummet to “scalded bits” on beaches, bullets ricochet off a chest as love speeds up. For all the book’s bravado, it ends on a light touch; playing off Whitman’s line from Leaves of Grass (“I stop somewhere waiting for you”), the speaker takes her last stand, not stopped, not waiting: “High up on a mountain somewhere in the Big Sur country / One fast move or I’m gone....”

Poems that squeeze and pulse with originality, like the powerful hearts they describe.

Pub Date: Nov. 29th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4772-8346-2
Page count: 150pp
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2016


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