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Nothing Unrequited Here by Heather Bell

Nothing Unrequited Here by Heather Bell

Reviews, Vol. 2.4, Dec. 2008
Verve Bath Press, 2008
Staple-bound, 38 pp., $4.99
Reviewed by Cynthia Reeser

A delicately-designed book from Verve Bath Press, Heather Bell’s Nothing Unrequited Here contains works to which equal attention has been devoted to craft. Bell’s poems evoke the alternate universe created by lovers, whether together or apart. “What Weddings Are Made Of” muses,

            I wonder if
our anniversaries

will be like melting snow or
kenneled sad things
or the sounds of elephants
about to demolish everyone living
without them.

What love is, what it isn’t; love with or without the object of affection, is worthy of rendering nonetheless. After all, as Bell knows, it is the duty of the poet to help the reader to see what it is she has not seen with her own eyes. “The Reason You Are Not A Poet” provides evidence of this:

He will never be a poet,
but that is what you are here for.    To let everyone know
his eyelids look like blades of grass when he sleeps,
his arms are branches, his roots
are you.

Other poems evidence the abstract and breathless stream-of-consciousness incoherence that lies in the background of new love: “Hope, aluminum and sedans, oh faster and faster. The tarp blue sky, the swaying bridge, the something so much more beautiful than I love you.” (“When Nothing is More Beautiful Than This”). In her language is something touching the intangibles of love, the moments and experiences better described this way than in hackneyed phrases such as “I love you.” In “Before You Make Love,” Bell writes,

Whenever you say, “I love you too,” he will never say “what do you mean?” He knows you just said, “I love God I love language I love bodies I love spirit I love horizon I love the Pacific Ocean I love the color of peaches I love suitcases I love sickness I love panic I love life” and etcetera is the closest you will ever get to the meaning of your love.

The title poem, “Nothing Unrequited Here: Nine Essays on Romanticism in Photography,” speaks to the human need for, if not love, then at least meaningful companionship. But this is something present in the collection as a whole. Bell’s gift—and it is one all-too-rarely seen—is an ability to convey the intricacies and intangibles present between lovers in language so original that it has no need to acknowledge that the word love, in and of itself, has lost meaning to much of the world.

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