Poet Kevin Spenst loves love.
Hearts Amok: A Memoir in Verse (Anvil Press), the third in a trilogy that explores how our hearts are shaped, is proof of that. Below, Kevin shares a selection of readings from the collection, delivering an emotional intensity sure to blast out the quarantine cobwebs from around your own heart.
Hearts Amok: a Memoir in Verse (Anvil Press, 2020), Kevin Spenst completes a trilogy of books that explore how our hearts are shaped through family, communities, loss, and love. In this third book of poetry, Spenst delves into the forces that shape our conceptions of romantic love. From Dante and the English sonneteer, Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey, to malls, arcade video games, movies, and heavy metal, Spenst grafts the twists and turns of language onto a chronological account of the loves of his life. Chelene Knight writes that “Hearts Amok will shake you to your core. Everyday questions of love are earned, won, lost and then ultimately answered through the whirlwind of constantly spinning verse.”
Through a stylistic sleight-of-hand, the poems play through a myriad of influences from medieval to modern with a sprinkling of hobo slang bread-crumbing the reader along. Adolescence in Surrey in the 80s is transformed through a fusion of lofty archaisms with bits of hobo-lingo, suggesting that memory is mediated through history, language, and ideology. Balancing critical analysis with a sonic celebration of words, Spenst explores how to live both in quiet thoughtfulness and boisterous full-heartedness and how earnestness can be squeakily twisted into a balloon floating out of our hands.
Of the collection, Spenst writes: “I love love. From the age of six, I’ve been a romantic fool, swooning, dreaming, and stumbling my way into or straight past the good graces of women in my world. Through elementary school, each grade was marked by an unrequited crush, and it was only in grade twelve that I was able to meet someone as romantically quixotic as me. Hearts Amok: a Memoir in Verse includes her along with other girlfriends, my wife and our divorce, the surprises of dating online in the 21st century, and love poems for Shauna. Making it from there to here. To craft these experiences into poetry, I’ve grafted the ups and downs of my romantic fortunes onto the start of the sonnet in English and in order to think critically about what it means to love someone, I’ve drawn from both old and new, the chivalric and the contemporary. Against the elevated language of the troubadour and theorist, I’ve enlisted the figure of the hobo to celebrate my Surrey roots and subsequent rootlessness. Over the course of my Vancouver life, I’ve had over a dozen addresses and my partner and I are currently considering where to hang our hats next. Love is always on the move.”
Lydia Kwa writes that “Kevin Spenst is a literary hobo and court jester par excellence.” The power of poetry is in its subversion of how language should look and sound. Hearts Amok transforms and tumbles through page after page, drawing ideas from Mandy Len Catron’s How to Fall in Love with Anyone, and Carrie Jenkins’ What Love Is, as well as from the poetry of the past and present, and the emotional intensities of a heart well-lived. Hearts Amok might just be the blast you need.
Kevin Spenst reads selections from his collection, Hearts Amok
Apologia From Hoboken, Christendom - A Poem from Hearts Amok
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Thanks to Jessica at Anvil Press for sharing Hearts Amokwith us, available on All Lit Up. For more Poetry in Motion,
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