On the first page of A Flame in the Heart: a love/hate anthology we learn that it “is dedicated to those we love with a blazing passion, to those we hope will burn in hell, and ideally, to the future separation of the two.” As I read the poems and short prose pieces that make up the book, it did indeed feel like that separation needed to happen. In one way or another, most of these are truly love/hate relationships, and all of them have at least a little resentment or hurt in their love. Together they paint a varied and broad portrait of attachment and desire and how the line can blur between the two extremes of love and hate.
There is such harm in love.
But let it be the green-and-blue acrobat it is,
A tropical danger in the midst of my body,
The body that you built for me.
Let it be the cage you cared for from which
Birdsong was pulled into the cool and colorless air.
Steve J. Hellman, in Love to Cecilia, has his protagonist refusing to submit to other people’s definition of love, especially if that definition is ultimately for self-serving reasons. She has the strength to resist and not give in, telling herself that “I am me…and nothing…is ever going to stop that.” As a father to a daughter, this vignette resonated with me as I felt that Cecilia was strong enough in her personhood to not give into the gender expectations of her/our culture. I hope we can all start to raise and support the women in our lives to do the same.
While the Home Burns, by Lisa Rappoport herself speaks to me of the catastrophe of a love that is dying even as one of those involved goes on totally unaware that everything is coming down around them:
…We were about to lose it all. I scurried
from you to the fire, begging, panicked, throwing thin liquids
onto blue flames, while you stayed in the background,
intact, beyond my reach, fiddling.
I’ve always loved Frida Kahlo, so I love her paean to Diego that closes out this collection in true love/hate fashion. Her obsession with him jumps out of every line of the poem. Her feelings for him are everywhere, in everything she did, and
In the ultimate limits of the sun (the sun has no limits)
One could easily substitute the words love or hate for the word sun in the above line to describe this collection.
On the Littoral Press website, Lisa states that “As a book artist/letterpress printer, I am especially interested in where form and content overlap or diverge.” This book shows that interest realized, especially in the cover paper. The colophon states that it is Thai Unryu reverible. To me it looks like the reflection of the flames that are engulfing the hearts on each page. The titles are printed in a blood-red ink that contrasts nicely with the body of the text printed in black. The Johannot paper provides a good feel and texture as well as really allowing the type to bite into the page. I also really like the accordian book structure for poetry in general, and Lisa has really made it seem perfect for this collection.
From looking at the website, the Littoral Press production covers the whole spectrum from book to book object. It looks like A Flame in the Heart is one that falls about as close to the book end of the spectrum as the press gets. And a very nice book it is at that.
AVAILABILITY: As of this post, the regular edition of 125 appears to be available via the Littoral Press website for $275. There were 10 copies signed by all the contributors except Frida Kahlo (obviously) but there is no indication as to whether these are still available