Book Review

Celebrating the Heart-land by Linda Lee, Jericho Productions, 2009. $25.

Reviewed by Linda Aschbrenner

Celebrating the Heart-land, a 163-page spiral-bound book by Linda Lee, is an ideal collection to read and examine if you are among the growing number of poets planning on self-publishing. Lee has assembled a wonder here, a book rich with intimate poetry and delightful color photographs. Indeed, 70 pages of color photographs are found within, a rarity for any book, much less a book of poetry. Lee’s niece Tyler contributed over 40 photos; Lee, 8; and friends and relatives are responsible for the remaining. To further make this collection a family effort, Lee’s daughter Wendy did the layout and design. Within the book we find that Linda Lee’s mother and brother are artists—and photographs of their art are also among the photos. This is poetry book as family history, family album, family lore.

One first wants to focus on the photos. Tyler has over 20 outstanding photographs of trees in all seasons. In addition there are nine pages devoted to horse photos, understandable as Lee and her daughter Wendy breed Morab horses. Family photographs are also featured: grandparents, aunts, mother, dad, great niece, assorted family groupings, the beloved family dogs.

Celebrating the Heart-land
invites us into this family’s lives. While many poets hide behind obscure lines, Lee is welcoming, friendly, up front. She divides her book into six sections: Seasons of the Heart, Equus-The Heart’s Passion, People and Pets Deep in My Heart, Places My Heart Treasures, The Heart Grieves, and The Heart Ponders.

The poems are refreshing and well-thought out. One appreciates Lee’s life experiences, her love of family and animals. She attended the School of the Arts in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, in 2000 and became enamored with poetry. Her 2003 chapbook, Where Woman Ends-Horse Begins, is in its fourth printing.

In the preface to Celebrating the Heart-land, Lee writes, “Maybe it isn’t easy to reach out to others, or stay in touch with what your heart tells you, but I would not want to live any other way.”

Linda Lee writes with authenticity when discussing her aunts, her family, and the horses on her farm. One is eager to read, observe,  learn. In the poem below, she utilizes rhyme, internal rhyme, alliteration, the lull of the repeating s sound. The horses are heralded by the sharp k in dark, by the blast of p in powerful. Horses are heard with her use of the onomatopoeic nickers.

    Chores Late at Night

    My horses and I have
    our own clock.

    Barn lights glow,
    make glimmering paths
    through black air,
    enclose me…in gold.

    There’s a rhythm to
    picking manure, filling buckets,
    dropping hay, measuring grain.
    It soothes, invites peace.

    Moonlight points the way;
    I speak softly. Suddenly
    dark, powerful shapes
    loom, crowd about me.

    Low impatient nickers,
    restless hooves,
    soft, seeking noses
    welcome me, prod me on.

    Each horse, in turn, is haltered.
    I lead and they follow. Soon the
    quiet cadence of their chewing
    fills the barn with contentment. 

For eleven years Linda Aschbrenner edited and published the poetry journal Free Verse (now Verse Wisconsin). In 2001, Aschbrenner founded Marsh River Editions, a publisher of poetry chapbooks.