Heart’s Content–J.R. Solonche


In J.R. Solonche’s short collection of poems centered around his experience of a heart-attack and subsequent recovery, we find a turning inward to the experience of consciousness as its existence is threatened by the failures of the body. He broaches dying with a matter-of-factness, as one of many wounds to his sense of self. The poems in Heart’s Content are meditations on perspective as mediated by the body’s senses. They confront, in sometimes playful style, the mind-body split that undergirds Western culture from at least the time of Descartes’s slogan “I think therefore I am.” Through a radically fresh understanding of his own mortality, Solonche radiates hope in equal parts with regret. He does not go gently into an old age of austerity and physical deprivation brought on by doctor’s counsel about how to live in the wake of a heart-attack. The loneliness and solitude of cold, white hospital spaces is tempered with hopeful images of the afterlife as “a long nap out of doors / some afternoon at the very end of summer, / the first Sunday of September say, perhaps / in the outsized hammock slung between/ the two black birch trees out back.” Heart’s Content is a memento mori grounded in the arteries and organs, the movement of the body’s blood. It is the reflective voice of the poet as he makes ready for the grave. But not yet. Above all, in Heart’s Content J.R. Solonche reminds us to live.

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