What does it mean to be the big heart? Or to hope to be the big heart? Or to fail to be that big heart? How far can a heart stretch? How does being a parent stretch it further? How does a heart manage under the pressure of children, of self, of hospital technician, of partner, of death? In this collection, big heartedness is both demand and desire. It emerges from family life — the kid who says to your face that she prefers her other parent; the father monkeying around in the art gallery; the mother who “gets on with it” in silence; the husband, distant and intimate under the marriage yoke. There is also in this collection the stirring of wilder desires than family is supposed to nurture, feelings more fiercely self-assertive than a parent — a mother particularly — is supposed to admit. This collection asks how to rise to the occasions that family presents and also how to let oneself spill over the bounds of familial roles.
Venart’s poems reach into the past but don’t get lost there; they look the present in the face — they have to: the clock is ticking, the children calling, there are hot dogs to be sliced and the dog won’t walk itself. The title is ironic. And also kind of secretly stoically hoping that it’s not ironic.
Praise for I Am the Big Heart:
“I am in love with Sarah Venart’s I Am the Big Heart. Everywhere is the work of the heart: a speaker full of deep empathy for the world, its charms, callousness, inconsistencies, and great beauty….A world where we live in deep fear and ecstatic longing for the destruction that happens to us all, the doing and undoing of existence, the existential pain of feeling — the incessant thud of being alive.” — Dorothea Lasky
2021 A.M. Klein Prize Jurors’ Comments:
These are carefully made and deeply felt poems that enact a mind sifting through memory, pausing here and there to pick out the glinting details that will unsettle description into discovery.
A vulnerable and moving account of what it means to love and give care to others. The poems offer deeply observant reflections on their surroundings and circumstance. They are filled with love, but also longing for what is lost, or perhaps exiled, in the act of attending to others. These poems capture both the gifts and frustrations born out of sacrifice.
From start to finish, this collection is an absolute joy to read.
These poems span a moving gamut of experience and I found myself returning to them for their wit, wisdom, and dexterous craft.