The Heart Room, now available!

The Heart Room by Libby Kurz


As a surgical nurse, Libby Kurz has held human hearts in her hands. If a more suitable job for a poet could be invented, I couldn’t imagine it. The human heart— the want-muscle, the first knot of desire, the very source book— Kurz writes, “it’s like listening/ to music in your hand.” And it’s not just the music, it’s the silence. It’s placing a cold heart into the warm body and waiting for a body to restart, it’s “the way light would hit a thing/ and leave darkness on the other side.” Kurz muses not only on the heart separated from the body, but also on the heart in its proper room—the common blockages in marriage and family, the adrenaline rush of love, the small awakenings and skipped beats in the rhythms of adult life. Who do you trust to hold your heart? By the end of this collection, I feel perfectly comfortable with my heart in this talented new poet’s hands.
–Frank Montesonti, author of Arts Grant (2017 Midwest Chapbook Award, GreenTower Press) and Blight, Blight, Blight, Ray of Hope (2011 Barrow Street Poetry Prize, Barrow Street)

“Pliable cores of muscle and spark”—who would know the human engine better than the gifted nurse and poet who penned those words? In The Heart Room, Libby Kurz gives us an intimate body of words that probes the depths of suffering—physical and relational–with raw beauty and wisdom. “Compressions” is astonishing.
–Suzanne Underwood Rhodes, author of Hungry Foxes (Aldrich Press) and A Welcome Shore (Canon Press)

Never with clinical detachment but instead through the empathetic scope of poetry, Libby Kurz carefully examines the moments that give proof of the human “instinct/ …to survive.” After witnessing so many of the assaults of illness and aging on the body, after natural calamities, through the daily regimens of scrabbling for love and subsistence, the poet asks– How does one hold a heart? “…[L]ike cupping a bird/ in your hands” before “its wings/ spread widely/ into the open sky,/ pumping the air/ like blood.” In the end, she manages to declare, “The human heart/ is the poem.”
–Luisa A. Igloria, author of The Buddha Wonders if She is Having a Mid-Life Crisis (Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal) and Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (2014 May Swenson Prize, Utah State University Press)

**book cover designed by Aaron McCall

**photograph by Bree Card Photography

Poetry Around Town

I’m a little late to the game, but April was National Poetry Month, which opened some wonderful opportunities to share my passion for poetry. I was honored to receive awards from The Poetry Society of Virginia and attend a reading in Williamsburg for the prize winners. There were so many inspiring voices there!

If you’d like to watch the reading of my poem “How To Handle a Heart” you can find it here at Virginia Poetry Online.

The event was emceed by my friend and poetry mentor, the brilliant Suzanne Rhodes!

Last month, I was also was invited back to my children’s school to talk about poetry with some fourth graders! I find that they are more intimidating to teach than adults, but they were good sports and natural poets.

I forced them to compose a list of images to use in future poems and they pleasantly surprised me with their attention to all the senses! Children have a natural knack for tuning into the world in fresh and unfiltered ways. I was sweating by the end of my time with them–they kept me on my toes for sure.

April was a full and wild month–any time I’m given an extra reason to share my love of poems, I’m a happy woman. I find it funny that poetry needs a month of its own. It seems that only things at the brink of extinction are given their own day or week or month…to try and force recognition or reawaken the public’s interest. I’m not sure that it works, but it’s a great gesture!

I’ve been reading Christian Wiman’s fantastic book of essays called Becoming A Poet: Ambition and Survival. In his essay “Poetry in a Visual Culture” he writes:

“But the greatest power of poetry for this particular country, at this particular moment in history, may be simply this act of preserving some aspect of truly individual consciousness in a culture bent on obliterating it. That is to say, poetry’s deepest value for our lives may consist precisely in how unlike life it is, at least unlike this welter of images and uniformity and busyness that we are now calling life.”

He ends the essay with the beautiful reflection that “in the end we go to poetry for one reason, so that we might more fully inhabit our lives and the world in which we live them, and that if we more fully inhabit these things, we might be less apt to destroy both.”

As May opens its bright doors and vivid colors to us, I find myself seeking more pockets to “live” a poem…inhabiting all aspects of my life authentically and intentionally. It is a work in progress, and I find that the daily practice of poetry continues to call me deeper into this journey.

If you are interested in digging into this journey for yourself…and if you live in the Hampton Roads area…I’m teaching a course this summer called “The Practice of Poetry” at The Muse Writers Center in Norfolk. You can register here. There are 5 seats left! The course will be offered on Saturday afternoons starting mid July.

I will leave you with a poem by William Stafford. Poetry is a practice which ushers us deeper into the human condition, a condition which holds the paradoxical truths that “straying feet find the great dance”… and “stumbling always leads home”…