The Beating Heart
Ginninderra Press, August 2020
Paperback, 92 pp, 198 x 129 mm
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.’
‘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.’
‘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.’
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).