Denise O’Hagan

The Beating Heart

Denise O'Hagan

Poetry collection

  Ginninderra Press, August 2020
  Paperback, 92 pp, 198 x 129 mm
  ISBN 978-1-7604192-8-8
  RRP AUD$22.50

About this book

Shortlisted for The Society of Women Writers NSW Inc Book Awards 2022

The Beating Heart is an allusion to the continuous pulsing of feelings that lie beneath the surface reality of our lives. This 90-page collection of poems, which includes internationally published and awarded works, explores themes of memory, both personal and inherited; the spiritual dislocation that so often accompanies emigration; and above all the rift between what appears to be and what is felt.

Through her poetry, the author ‘slips into the lining’ of various experiences from a childhood in the ancient city of Rome, whose ‘famous walls bulged with sanctioned corruption’ to the loneliness of a London bedsit, ‘narrow as a capsule, a chilly low-cost limbo’, to the lure of a Sydney bushwalk, where ‘mist lies over the grass, the trees, the everything, as lightly as a suggestion’.

The elegant assurance of these meditative and melodic lines remind us that poetry can be, as the author believes, ‘a form of music’.

‘There is an urgent stillness to much of this work, drawing the reader in with its tenderness towards every aspect of the experience of living. Rich with the colourful cadences of her childhood in Italy, the poet’s language pulses with vital, at times visceral, imagery. Like ‘a latter-day suburban witch’ the poet conjures enchantment throughout this splendid collection. This is a poised and polished entrée.’
Anne Casey

‘Here is a poet who understands the extraordinary in the commonplace, the flimsy place of life. The poems mill to edges, ripple by recollection and poignancy – the intergenerational weight of knowledge in simple things, ‘with foldings of clothes pressed smooth as stone’, where the ‘paper thin’ present is convulsed waiting on a child’s operation. O’Hagan’s mastery of the transcendence in moments, and the distillation of experiences, is the gift of a writer at the height of her powers.’
James Walton

‘Each and every poem penetrates deeply into the core of our existence. There is no path, crossroad or threshold this gifted poet fears to take with her astute observations of what is often taken for granted. The migrant, the traveller, the historian, the pioneer and the mother are framed within immaculate and harmonic wordscapes. There is not one missed beat within this captivating collection of what it means to be alive.’
Angela Costi

About the author

Denise was born in Rome and lives in Sydney. She has a background in commercial book publishing in the UK and Australia and works as an editor assisting independent authors through her own imprint, Black Quill Press.

Her poetry is published widely in Australia and internationally. Recipient of the Dalkey Poetry Prize, she has been shortlisted in various awards including the Australian Catholic University Poetry Prize, the Robert Graves Poetry Prize (UK), the Plough Writing Prize (UK) and the Proverse International Poetry Prize (Hong Kong). She was Poetry Editor for Australia/New Zealand for Irish literary journal The Blue Nib until 2020.

Her poetry collections include The Beating Heart (Ginninderra Press 2020), shortlisted for the Society of Women Writers NSW Book Awards 2022, and Anamnesis (Recent Work Press 2022).

Praise for The Beating Heart

Anne Casey
Anne CaseyPoet
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‘There is an urgent stillness to much of this work, drawing the reader in with its tenderness towards every aspect of the experience of living… This is a poised and polished entrée.’
James Walton
James WaltonPoet
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‘Here is a poet who understands the extraordinary in the commonplace, the flimsy place of life… O’Hagan’s mastery of the transcendence in moments, and the distillation of experiences, is the gift of a writer at the height of her powers.’
Angela Costi
Angela CostiPoet and social justice advocate
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‘The migrant, the traveller, the historian, the pioneer and the mother are framed within immaculate and harmonic wordscapes. There is not one missed beat within this captivating collection of what it means to be alive.’
Phillip Hall
Phillip HallPoet and book reviewer, The Blue Nib
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' O’Hagan’s book is a major contribution to contemporary confessional poetry. A stellar debut collection!'
Magdalena Ball
Magdalena BallCompulsive Reader
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'These poems take on the notion of what it means to be alive, to experience love, trauma, vulnerability and loss, and to keep on caring. The Beating Heart is a gorgeous book – full of beauty and pathos; humour, rich experience, and above all heart.'
Jonathan Shaw
Jonathan ShawBlogger
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‘There’s art here, and technique, but it’s art that conceals art and feels like a natural voice speaking directly, warmly and openly…’
Anna Foster
Anna FosterYouByYou Books
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'She knows when to hold back with a restrained phrase and when to dramatise emotions with a full-blooded description.'
Dotti Simmons
Dotti SimmonsNovelist
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‘The sheer physicality of the images gives memory the immediacy of instinct.’
Linda Adair
Linda AdairRochford Street Review
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'A dazzling and wise debut... O’Hagan’s poetic voice is complex, subtle and authentic.'
Alison Clifton
Alison CliftonStylusLit
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‘Each “micromemoir” … tells a tale, conjures a memory, or captures a moment with flashbulb-like precision.’
Henry Briffa
Henry BriffaPoet and psychologist
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‘The collection explores the complex psychological paradox of migration … the intergenerational traumas.’
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