Praise for Heartland; the Poetry of Place

Dr. Allen Stein, professor of English literature at North Carolina State University and a poet himself, writes:

“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.”

This is an especially gratifying review for me because one of my goals as a poet is to turn the lens of poetry on subjects that might be easily overlooked, or brushed off as mundane, and light up their inner brilliance. The Kansas landscape is an immense opportunity for sharpening that kind of sight – the kind of sight that focuses on color, line, and detail, interprets harmony and pattern from the smallest scale on up, and can, with an appreciative spirit, follow the immaterial blossoming and fruits of such a place: insight, peace, gratitude.

Place – landscape, culture, weather, flora and fauna, architecture – gives form and weight to our emotions, imaginings, and self-understanding. It is able to do so because it isn’t just a blank canvas we project onto, but is, so to speak, a force of personality in its own right. Like all strong characters we encounter in our lives, place shapes how we develop, our awarenesses, priorities, standards of judgment. Coming to know a landscape is both an exercise in self-development and transformation, and an invitation to relationship with a reality startlingly, excitingly outside and different from ourselves.

For me, learning to understand and appreciate the plains and prairies of the heartland has been a process of discerning a solemn respect, a joyful reverence, in my own heart for a heritage and way of being-in-the-world that is both culturally unique and universally human. Opening into that growth, such discoveries, became the blossoming of place and self into poem.

Don’t forget to check out the other advance praise of Heartland and place an order for yours at the Anchor & Plume Press shop!


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