Reviewers Are Loving It!
“Nina Serrano writes, “I saw myself / reflected in a puddle of tears;” “There’s an old woman in a glittery tee shirt smiling at me.” The poems in Heart Strong swirl in different directions, but they always find their way back to that face in the mirror, the poet’s sole self—an entity which is simultaneously in violent movement and at utter rest: “later realizing the wildness / was me.” What Serrano sees is the heart-self raging. Her words and images tell the tale of a woman existing in the midst of history—in an age in which, strangely enough, it seems absolutely necessary to affirm that one can feel love. How, in the murderous twentieth/twenty-first century (“All My Life There Has Always Been a War,” “War Against Earth,” “Protestors Blues”), can love exist at all? Heart Strong tells how it can exist, and flourish, and even—in the midst of horror both personal and historical—heal. A strong heart (a strong heart is the very basis of poetry) can be a weapon.”
“Nina Serrano’s Heart Strong, the final volume in a suite of three poetry collections, is a work that rings with honesty and sings with courage. This lengthy collection is an accessible one that, in ten carefully delineated sections, carries the reader along on a comfortable rhythm poem to poem and section to section. We come to know the poet as a serious woman and as a political activist, one who seeks social justice in both arenas, always with an abiding and infectious zest for living. She moves us through a range of poems where some dream, others ponder life’s mysteries, still others read like indigenous parables; and in some, we stare with her head-on and unflinchingly into the face of death. Many of the poems are narrative, others lyrical, some meditative, still others inventive in form. We are often rooted in place as a stage for the serious struggle for global social justice; and yet, Serrano can delight as she throws a “ring around the moon” or conjures a “chorus of birds… quetzals of glory.” The poet cherishes life’s small moments, elevating the ordinary to the extraordinary, as any real poet must. She does the poet’s work, stops to notice what others may ignore, and takes the time to write it down– a snail discovered nibbling at lettuce, green filling a room, love a dance of light and shadow, a daffodil blooming beneath a streetlight. Themes within many of the poems resonate in her personification of humanity crying a cry “that even floods, hurricanes and bombs can’t silence.” The best news about this collection is that we cannot help but leave it without both loving the poetry and feeling loved by the poet.”
Andrena Zawinski, author of Something About, a PEN Oakland Award recipient; Features Editor at PoetryMagazine.com.
I shall keep “Heart Strong” by Nina Serrano close by so I may often hear her ecstatic voice. Nina is a seer who makes the ordinary miraculous with her ability to turn lettuce and spinach into part of life’s miracles. She retains a child’s innocent wonder while at the same time knowing an adult’s disappointment with our inability to create peace in our world. Despite ongoing war and injustice, the poet sings of the need for fearless love in the face of everything. She is like the impatient daffodil in her poem of the same name that doesn’t require spring to burst into bloom. “Heart Strong” is strong medicine. Not only words, but wonderful pen drawings and collages by the poet and her friends grace this book.
Lenore Weiss, poet and editor, www.lenoreweiss.com