Parturition, Heather Treseler

Southword Editions, 2020    £4.99

A fresh look

I could — indeed, did — spend hours poring over the beauty and richness of the imagery in this, Heather Treseler’s debut pamphlet. And yet, it’s the unconventionality of those same images which makes these poems mesmerising.

In ‘Louisiana Requiem’, the poet describes a woman:

Eight months pregnant when your mother began hospice,
   you sat in the driveway, belly ovoid as an imperial Fabergé

egg on the eve of the Bolshevik Revolution

This is a powerful analogy, loaded with meaning: the physical swelling of new life, the impending doom of death and the conflicting emotions.

Two of Treseler’s key themes in Parturition are bodies and womanhood. In the title poem, she refers to a Roman historian describing the bodies of Athenians:

made to oar triremes into war across the wide
bowl of the Aegean. Their nakedness whipped

by leather sun.

It’s an original approach to capturing some of the violent emotions a woman may feel after having a baby:

             salted wounds, carved like runic

alphabet across their blistered backs, broke
freshly open as if the body were trying to sign

or speak in its red ink.

Likewise, in ‘Skywalker’, the poet uses an image of a tightrope walker over Niagara Falls to describe a woman’s suffering from an eating disorder:

   Your hard wish to slip appetite’s nanny,

girlhood’s noose, stride across the sky’s broad stage,
   mouth’s incessant gorge, sure in your mastery

of gravity, footing, lines strung above roaring water,
   as you angled to step beyond self and hunger.

What a fresh way of understanding the vulnerability, fear and drive at work in the illness!

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