I have to look for all the possible horror / I will never unsee, I have to look / I push the thick door open.
Giovanna McKenna, after lengthy careers as an actor and a journalist, was tasked to write a poem and found she was full of them. She’s been recently published by Visual Verse, Nine Pens, iamb, Tether’s End and Speculative Books. This full collection stretches to 142 pages, and is fully illustrated.
I discovered Giovanna during Lockdown, in the world of Zoom Room Open Mics, and every time I’d see them on an attendance list there would, I must admit, be a little frisson of excitement. The first poem I heard them read, I believe, was Nonna’s toast, done on one side. I knew then this was a remarkable talent at work. this collection confirms that, and then provides countless justifications as to why.
Lessons from the Text
There are a lot of varieties of poet in the world, and undoubtedly those who come to their craft later in life have a touch that is unique and distinct from the ones who began early. Giovanna’s maturity is without question, and it is not that which sets what are often Technicolour poems apart from the norm. There is an intensity here, confidence of the subject matters that is almost theatrical. Knowing they were an actor, and understand delivery as well as presentation, is part of the key to enjoying this collection.
It is from the stories of family, the wrench and horror of loss, and the moments afterwards where most impact is felt: Grief stains, My mother’s house and Heritage are staggering, outstanding pieces of work, and that same depth of care leeches through every single page. There are reminders, too, that all is not well in the realm of the broken-hearted: Today cannot be that day is my favourite poem in the entire collection because sometimes, you can see the trauma without ever needing to have it pointed out.
This collection is utterly beautiful, and compelling, both inside and out: it’s exterior belies the complexity beneath, as is often the case with lesser known poets. This is a book to be slowly consumed over time, which is why when I’m done here it will return to my bedside table, where it has lived since release. Sometimes, you know what’s needed for the days when things require a different perspective. How the Heart can Falter is a constant reminder that it is okay to be human.
Will you read it again? As I said, this is the current Bedtime Reading book. You have to be summat pretty special to make it into my bedroom 😛
Would you recommend it for me to read? This is not only recommended, but probably one of the best value for money collections you’re gonna find right now: beautifully made, packed full of goodness, and reasonably priced!