Heartland explores the connections between place, self, love, and faith. It moves through the rural landscapes of Kansas and the inner geography of identity and relationship, exploring their convergences and emotional resonances. Heartland is a question of identity asking itself through place, a celebration of connections found, and an acknowledgment of how fragile they can be.
You can read some sample poems from Heartland online; see my Publications page. Artist Annie Palmer has done a series of landscapes inspired by Heartland; see two of them and an interview with Annie here.
Praise for Heartland:
These marvelous poems are alive with rapture for earthscapes brimming with the divine. Schesser is traveling in the company of Hopkins and Roethke, working ‘a clutch of words/stumbling through a universe’ in visionary speech that is beautifully truthful.
—John Balaban, author of Path, Crooked Path and Locusts at the Edge of Summer
LeighAnna Schesser’s remarkable collection of poetry, Heartland, not only speaks of the Midwest with stunningly original language, but it invokes a state of being. From immersing the reader in the sky that is the landscape in and beyond Kansas, to the ending poem, a love song to place and our capacity to learn now to love, these poems shimmer and endure. Schesser’s fresh images also show us how to see, hear, and feel where we are and what history and future is held in a single moment, “As if water, once, learned/ how to die, and lying/ down, flowered.” This book is one of the finest I’ve read about the power of the earth, sky, and our lives in the heartland.
—Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate
Reading LeighAnna Schesser’s Heartland, I recalled musing as a Bronx schoolboy over a textbook photo of a Kansas wheat field. To a city kid the effect was disturbing, almost dizzying, for Kansas seemed a place flat, unvarying, empty of all save the endless and eternal wheat. Schesser’s poems make clear how little I knew. Under the Kansas sky there is, in fact, Schesser shows in the subtle rhythms of her intensely detailed work, a landscape of endless and eternal beauty. In the shifting light of the prairie, the streams and melting patches of snow, the birds and small animals, the flowers and, yes, the wheat are all infused with what seems a transcendent force, one that, Schesser suggests compellingly, touches us esthetically, emotionally, and spiritually.
—Dr. Allen Stein, Professor of English, North Carolina State University
LeighAnna Schesser knows America’s Heartland from the inside of its vast and teeming veins in “the urgency of roots” as she calls herself “I am a clutch of words stumbling through a universe written in the language of textures.” And she gives us these beautiful textures in poem after poem that sing of and celebrate the Heartland like no other. In reading her poems I feel more alive and in deeper and more sacred touch with the earth and this central part of the country. Rejoice, then, that such a book is in the world and yet not quite of it. A marvel.
—Robert Vivian, author of Mystery My Country and Least Cricket Of Evening
Reviews of Heartland:
From Grace Grandall’s review on Heartland’s Goodreads page:
“This is, quite possibly, my favorite collection of words on the planet. […] I’ve never read poetry that quite matched this for soft-spoken fierceness. […] This little book stole my heart.”
This review by J.C. Elkin originally ran at Verse-Virtual in August 2016:
LeighAnna Schesser has created in Heartland an exquisite image of place that is both concrete and abstract in its intimacy. An hour with these poems is like an hour’s nostalgic road trip through the prairies with only your favorite relatives along for the ride, where the scenery is as vivid as a Wyeth landscape and the only wind is this old car’s reedy whistle.Early in this, her debut poetry collection, Schesser humbly describes herself as a clutch of words stumbling through a universe written in the language of textures. Yet here is an artist’s eye for exquisite details with textures that pique all the senses. Here a hawk is a graphite scribble by the fence post; here the sun cracks us open like an egg; here is a struggle of songbirds in the shadows and this feeling that glides sea monster-like through the wheat fields.These twenty-one poems, organized by the cycle of the seasons, are as rich as the Kansas soil from which they spring and as ephemeral as time, addressing the cycle of life, the promises of love and death, and a subtle Christianity that infuses even the coldest days with hope.