by Anara Guard

Book Cover: Hand on My Heart

Thirty-five poignant and powerful poems, in which the poet performs word ballet, pirouetting her way through regrets, childbirth and parenting, floods and heat waves, and love, both certain and uncertain. Deeply personal and sensual, Hand on My Heart sympathetically plumbs the depths of memory and imagination. Here you will find poems inspired by the Wizard of Oz, fallen giraffes, and Mason jars; laments and praise; what may be love, and what is most certainly love. The poem ">45" won a Jack Kerouac Poetry Prize.

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Excerpt:

None for Me

 

After the crash, you must have scattered

Over yards, acres, into the next county or

Even somehow across state lines

Because there is your ponytail

Tumbling down the back of a stranger,

Your eyebrow cocks on an unfamiliar face,

And the shape of your shoulders is silhouetted

In that lit window I pass by at night.

How did all those people end up with a piece of you

And me, left with none?

Reviews:Jan Haag wrote:

Hand on My Heart dives into one’s “own mysterious depths/the volcanic source revealed,” as Anara Guard writes in the poem, “Self-Examination.” With great range, Guard explores in lovely language the “Weekly Communion” of trash day, of owls, of the gift of a Mason jar that gets reused again and again. Dip in and savor these poems, one at a time, then return for more sips of poetic nectar.

Lennart Lundh on Amazon wrote:

In its thirty-six free-verse poems, Anara Guard’s collection, Hand on my Heart, unflinchingly approaches the narrator’s personal and public lives, complete with joys and tragedies both mundane and spiritual. Serious and direct, Guard consistently fills her ruminations with wonderful images. The language is clear and carefully chosen, the subjects and references cross-generational.... Miscarriages and drownings. Recycling. Love, with its resilience or departure. The inevitable growth of a child and the lessons contained therein. Hand on My Heart is a marvelous gathering of Life’s examples to us, deserving from start to finish of your time.

Judith Logan on Amazon wrote:

I love this book! Anara nails it with her range of expressed emotions! I especially love An Education. And Owls. She definitely shows us her gift for language!!

Jenene Ravesloot on Jenene Ravesloot's Poetry Reviews wrote:

Anara Guard, a Midwesterner now living in California, presents us with a sophisticated debut collection of poetry… There are many memorable poems in this collection; fierce poems that surprise; poems that delight; poems of unstinting honesty and beauty… Hand on My Heart is as structurally powerful as it is poetic. It is divided into 4 parts, much like the chambers of the heart. The 1st section, “Answers and Questions,” with its 1st poem titled “All My Pretty Horses,” introduces the poet of this collection who needs “to ride at full gallop, headlong, headstrong, forlorn, thundering to the childless horizon.” These are brave words, bravely and beautifully said. We cannot help but want to ride along with her “into the dark, like all night mares, screaming into the wind.”

The 2nd section, aptly called “Laments,” explores such topics as “Insomnia, Revealed,” “None for Me,” and “Auntie Em’s Lament” which is a splendid spoof on Dorothy in Kansas after her return from the Land of Oz. The 3rd section, “Praise And Petitions,” winks at all forms of communion from the ritual of recycling “At the altar of the curb” to eye-wandering in church…the 4th section explores “Love, Maybe—and Love, Certainly.” We traverse a variety of love landscapes with the poet: old love; prophetic love; reconciled love; distant love; and always, in every poem, the love of language and imagery shines through as in “Robert Bly Reads His Poetry” when “as he speaks, a feather drifts into the spotlight, floating slowly above his head.” What a gorgeous image; one of many in this debut collection.

Read the full review at Jenene Ravesloot's Poetry Reviews Facebook page.

Lennart Lundh on Highland Park Poetry wrote:

In its thirty-six free-verse poems, Anara Guard’s collection, Hand on my Heart, unflinchingly approaches the narrator’s personal and public lives, complete with joys and tragedies both mundane and spiritual. Serious and direct, Guard consistently fills her ruminations with wonderful images. The language is clear and carefully chosen, the subjects and references cross-generational.

“Yes, She Knew” speaks to Yeats’ “Leda and the Swan,” answering what the poet sees as its central question quickly and directly, following with vivid imagery as proof:

They flew above the forests
heaving with rain,
and she watched the flamingos dance
their pink seduction.
She saw the deserts,
scraped clean to the bone.

In contrast, “>45” answers its question, “What is greater than forty-five?” by way of a clever, and clearly political, list poem that always and never names its subject:

Bottles of beer on the wall
Cards in a deck, even after we remove all the jokers

Colors in the big box of crayons
Native American nations

before concluding, “what is greater than 45? // We are.”

After “Hole in My Head” reminds us of the fragility of memories (“Where is that word? / I need it to fill a hole / in my heart.”), “Regret” warns, through their similarity to a garden, against failing to deal with them in time:

I have waited too long to prune
and my roses have grown tangled
and straggly. They resist
all efforts to tame them now.

Miscarriages and drownings. Recycling. Love, with its resilience or departure. The inevitable growth of a child and the lessons contained therein. Hand on My Heart is a marvelous gathering of Life’s examples to us, deserving from start to finish of your time.


About the Author

Anara studied writing at the Urban Gateways Young Writers Workshop of Chicago with Kathleen Agena, the Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts with Norman Corwin, Columbia College Story Workshop, St. Joseph’s College with Stu Dybek, Bread Loaf Writers Conference with Robert Cohen and Alix Ohlin, and the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. She graduated from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, and Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science in Boston. In 2010, Back Pages Publishing issued her first collection of short stories, The Sound of One Body. Remedies for Hunger (2014) is her second story collection and was named one of the Best Books of 2015 by the Chicago Book Review.

She is also a poet and memoirist. Her poems have improbably won both a John Crowe Ransom Poetry Prize and a Jack Kerouac Poetry Prize. Her work has recently appeared in The Ear, Gold Man Review, Convergences, and Under the Gum Tree.  She and her sister, Gay Guard-Chamberlin, perform their poetry together as "Sibling Revelry".

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