Review of ‘How the Heart Can Falter’ by Giovanna MacKenna

Nigel Kent - Poet and Reviewer

One of the pleasures of writing reviews is that you read closely a lot of contemporary poetry and just occasionally a debut collection stops you in your tracks because you know it is the beginning of something significant. How the Heart Can Falter (The Museum of Lossand Renewal Publications, 2022) by Giovanna MacKenna is one of those collections. It is a chronologically arranged series of poems in which the poet strives to make sense of her experiences: those of family life, the loss of her parents, her sense of identity and her struggle with mental health.

The opening eponymous poem is a highly appropriate introduction to the collection. In it, MacKenna uses the symbol of a malformed heart (from which she and her father suffered) to explore the imperfections of relationships and their fragility. She writes: ‘The heart can form badly, leave gaps/ where bloods that never mix can mingle/sucking…

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