When I saw that Clash Books was publishing a collection of poetry by Heather Bell, I was immediately excited, so excited in fact, that I both bought and read her book on its release day. But I’m sure that’s no surprise to any of you who have ever read Bell’s work before.
Regret or Something More Animal is a journey into the painful art of asking why. It’s a mediation on loss and grief, on personal trauma and understanding, and what I appreciated most about this collection was the rawness of it. Now I talk a lot about how poetry is my siren song, how I’m drawn to the agony and ash of it, forever called to the art form of the open wound, and this book certainly did not disappoint for within these pages dripped the kind of rage and sadness that only comes from long periods of silence and stillness and a deep thorough inventory of one’s emotions and pain.
Bell holds our hands as she walks us through an empty photo album. She details memories and dreams that were stolen from her, that were ripped away, misplaced, and lost in a field of things that once were and never will be. It’s a heartbreaking journey that focuses on themes of divorce, abuse, motherhood, and acceptance, and the true beauty of her words exists in the air around the words, in the notion that love and light exists in pockets of time if we can allow ourselves to witness them and give ourselves permission to take another chance.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t talk about the ethereal note of her poems because while Bell writes with a blunt honesty, she does so as if she’s trapped in a dark fairy tale, surrounded by familiars and magic that turns honey into sulfur. I always feel like I’m lost in a meadow and covered in storms when I read her work.
If you haven’t had that privilege, I suggest starting here.
I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.