Part meditation on nature and transience, part love letter to a Missouri home, Leaves is a strong contribution from a promising regional poet.
Heitsch infuses her verse with a clear and comforting sense of place, and her place of choice is her home in the Ozarks. So secure is the author in her hillside abode that she tears off in easy colloquials: â€œThere’s a probe approaching Mars, but big deal. / We’re in the Ozarks, under the beaver moon / near full”–we’re sure there is nowhere else she’d rather be. Heitsch clearly pulls from the school of Frost and Whitman, but there is also a bit of the plains-inspired vastness of the Nebraskan and former poet laureate Ted Kooser. There is also plenty of the poet’s own definite sensibility, and we are as happy when she cleaves to her predecessors’ traditions as when she heads out on her own. Heitsch writes mostly in an easy free verse. Her lines are short, but never rushed or fragmented, and her language is casual and accessible without ever slipping into lazy slang. The images are by turns natural and domestic, and she has a real knack for infusing the mundane with inspiring new light. Of course, Heitsch is not a perfect poet, and she could be more careful with her words; her diction is sometimes strained, sometimes redundant. For example, how is it different to be â€œlatently aware” than to be merely â€œaware,” as her speaker is in the less-than-elegant â€œCheer”? And some of her experiments with rhyme seem juvenile, as in â€œFar on the Gravel”: â€œâ€¦the punkin’ on the step is ready excep’ / we’ll light it tonight when the time is right / to show the waif that here is safe.” But these are minor sins in a collection full of many small joys.
Heartening verse from Middle America.