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The Heart that Beats: A Collection of Poems

by Hans Joseph Fellmann

Rating: *****

The Heart that Beats is a collection of poems written from 2010 to 2016. They read in chronological order and detail Mr Fellmann’s life in both the Czech Republic and California during those six years.

Hands up who likes poetry? Hands up who regularly reads poetry? I am willing to wager that there is a large disparity which is a shame as poetry written so confidently and powerfully as Mr Fellmann’s, deserves a wide, appreciative audience.

These poems are not for the faint-hearted. They are an unflinching, personal and, at times, graphic collection, written on a tide of dark, self-deprecating humour. A Knowing Smile is the perfect opener and we meet the poet through his own reflection. There is no traditional rhyme scheme (there is not with the majority) but the poem contains its own rhythm by the economical use of punctuation and short/long structure. It is loaded with metaphor and some compelling images, ‘gravity pulls me / like a bullet shot through jelly’.

Many of Fellmann’s poems see the weary comedy in everyday monotony and hopelessness. There are three excellent examples at the beginning; Dog Days, POS and Bad Onion. Some poems (Enlightenment) are stream of consciousness narrative and they work through the subtle use of internal rhymes and echoes although I found Mattie of Shell Beach too long in sentence.

The title poem, The Heart that Beats, is one of the strongest both in form and structure. The repetition beating a question throughout the poem. Czech has brutal imagery balanced with beauty, ‘A ballerina / weaving effortlessly / through a tangle of barbed wire’. ‘A Spic Like Me’ was one of my favourites. The contents were a surprise yet this one poem gifts the reader more understanding of Fellmann than many of the others. Friends was thought-provoking. Analise was one of the most affecting, its sentiments enhanced by its brevity. Nickel-Sized Hole, set on a fishing boat, showed skill in writing colloquial speech into the rhythm of the poem which gave it a soft sing-song movement redolent of a sea shanty. Personally, I found Ali Baba too narrative although the final couplet packed a real visual punch. Mediocrity was viciously well-observed and darkly funny as were 34 and Americans.

About two-thirds through (around 776 752 214), the tone changes. The poems become more intimate and, despite their anguish, doubt and heartache there is a level of self-knowledge and mature acceptance that was not present in earlier verses. Pass the Pepper was exquisitely excruciating; using the unnamed woman’s body parts as metaphor to hammer home the rage and disgust that the writer feels for her infidelity. The mention of ‘his car accident’ is almost missed, but by making that sentence longer, it leads you to pause and draw breath thereby noticing the line.

Free Bird is a measured yet incredibly powerful poem with which to finish; its sentiment lingering in the mind and affirming Mr Fellmann’s development as a poet.

A highly recommended collection.

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