I Am the Big Heart

By Sarah Venart

I Am the Big Heart
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A love story to the emotional self--this heart is tender, but it also has a savage bite.

 

What does it mean to be the big heart? Or to hope to be the big heart? Or to fail to be that big heart? How far can a heart stretch? How does being a parent stretch it further? How does ... Read more


Overview

A love story to the emotional self--this heart is tender, but it also has a savage bite.

 

What does it mean to be the big heart? Or to hope to be the big heart? Or to fail to be that big heart? How far can a heart stretch? How does being a parent stretch it further? How does a heart manage under the pressure of children, of self, of hospital technician, of partner, of death? In this collection, big heartedness is both demand and desire. It emerges from family life--the kid who says to your face that she prefers her other parent; the father monkeying around in the art gallery; the mother who "gets on with it" in silence; the husband, distant and intimate under the marriage yoke. There is also in this collection the stirring of wilder desires than family is supposed to nurture, feelings more fiercely self-assertive than a parent--a mother particularly--is supposed to admit. This collection asks how to rise to the occasions that family presents and also how to let oneself spill over the bounds of familial roles.

 

Venart's poems reach into the past but don't get lost there; they look the present in the face--they have to: the clock is ticking, the children calling, there are hot dogs to be sliced and the dog won't walk itself. The title is ironic. And also kind of secretly stoically hoping that it's not ironic. But it is:

 

. ..And now everyone is arrow
arrow, arrows. Everyone harpoons.
And I am the big heart, aren't I?
When my black dog was being put down, in her last
second I whispered, Squirrel.
(from "Epiphany")

Sarah Venart

SARAH VENART's poetry has been published in Numero Cinq, Concrete and River, The New Quarterly, The Malahat Review, The Fiddlehead, This Magazine, Prism International, and on CBC Radio. She is the author of Woodshedding (Brick Books, 2007) and Neither Apple Nor Pear. Sarah lives in Montreal and teaches writing at John Abbott College.

Excerpt

Epiphany Here I am, with one hour to find it. Here I am in this tenth month, the peeler of pears,the slicer of hotdogs, cutting them into stripssmaller than a child's windpipe. Here's my apologetic smile, accepted by the daycare,in return for my children. So what is there to findin one hour on my desk's shallow surface?I've mislaid all of it somewhere amongmy mind's tiny grey flags, in the millions of scrapspiling up. I left it behind in the dark bleeding gumsof the dog that I loved, watching her clench yet another rockfrom the tide. That was twelve years ago. What was she looking for?What if she'd stopped looking?Metaphors were easy then, not only the sky,but migrating everywhere. And now everyone is arrowarrow, arrows. Everyone harpoons. And I am the big heart, aren't I?When my black dog was being put down, in her lastsecond I whispered, Squirrel. The News I placed the telephone in the cradleand did not stop walking until I was lyingunder a cave of trees in a stranger's yard. I lay there like a wide lake. I didn't have the deep thoughts of a lake. Instead, I had the modest thoughtsof a mother:I am the lake if you want me to be the lake. I can also be the kept lawn or this cedar shrub. Even the roses, which I dislike. Or dislikedbefore I became them.

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