The Normal Heart and How It Works

Winner of the 2010 White Eagle Coffee Store Press Chapbook Contest

From contest judge, Bern Mulvey:

These poems document first the narrator’s acceptance of serious, perhaps fatal, physical imperfection–in itself inspiring–yet an acceptance which transforms somehow, miraculously, over the course of this wonderful book into love for this flawed body. “I am not finished yet/not nearly/yet,” she announces, triumphantly, in “Binary Things,” and even though we know this victory is temporary, her joy at it, at simply being alive, is contagious. Like the narrator of these poems, we too inhabit bodies which are imperfect, which ultimately will betray us, but while perhaps inevitable, these poems are reminders that this is not evil, and that the life that precedes this finish is still worth living. All important messages, particularly in these difficult times, though perhaps the biggest miracle of this book is that the presentation of these ideas is done so beautifully, with such attention to line, to image, to the sound, the music of language. A music felt inside (yes) the human heart.

ein Baum voll perlgrauer Tauben_full

ein Baum voll perlgrauer Tauben (a tree full of pearl gray doves)

Verlag Berger, November 2018

from Rachael Lyon’s foreword:

If you’ve never seen a dove tree, you might not know its blossom—a pair of large, white petals that hang down from the flower head and flutter in the wind, like white handkerchiefs waving, like doves roosting and flapping and cooing. At a quick glance you might think the tree is full of doves. This trick of the eyes, this imaginative leap is one reason we find ourselves continually surprised, even delighted, by the natural world, by its bounty and its deprivation, by its turning.

I like to think that same imaginative leap is what keeps us returning to poetry, both as writers and as readers. The landscape of Vienna and the surrounding countryside provides the backdrop for Löschner’s work in ein Baum voll perlgrauer Tauben. But another landscape—the Zwischenreich or in-between realm—is also on full display.

In Löschner’s hands, we grow still and watchful. With her guidance, we are made to see moments we might otherwise miss (moments between sleeping and awake): a pond in a forgotten garden, a sparrow singing in a cupola, the bells within the wind’s roar, a tree full of pearl-gray doves. Yet behind these moments is a sense of some larger order: the earth spinning on its axis, the seasons’ inevitable progress, even aging—as our children grow up and the trees who we are begin to lose their leaves, catchers of light and wind. 

Löschner’s poems are highly concentrated; they tend to be short, yet each poem holds at its center a small and beautiful truth that sits like sugar on the tongue and rewards the patient reader—much like the meat inside a fresh-fallen nut or the moon hidden in the navel of a mussel. Löschner’s style is stark yet meticulous; she is careful in her construction of image and in her construction of the words themselves, which the German language so generously makes allowance for.

She builds our world for us within these pages and tasks each of us with its care. All without a shred of ego. In her poem on process, Löschner insists that nature poems write themselves and “borrow from a poet only the jointed hand as a pen-holder.” Oh, to be a poem lucky enough to borrow Irmgard Löschner’s hand a while.