REVIEWS FOR WHEN THE HEART NEEDS A STUNT DOUBLE
The ruminative second book from Decillis (Strings Attached) weaves memory, imagery, and observation to understand the anatomy of heartbreak. “I have a habit of resisting love,” Decillis writes. “I name it possibility and forget what that means—/ a habit of unearthing the past that taught me/ to get used to the leaving before the leaving.” The book contains riveting details—of the natural world, paintings and poems, bodily organs, home shopping networks, planets—which take the form of autopsy files, centos, and dreams. Decillis’s voice is playful and humorous, even under the weight of personal history and inquiry. Among the many birds that appear in the book (ravens, orioles, wild geese), there is a poem about marshmallow peeps “bloomed… in the microwave,” the speaker “roast[ing] them into gelatinous oneness.” In these memorable poems, Decillis suggests that despite the hauntings of memory and grief, the tired muscle “lifting and lowering/ the weight of love and sorrow,” there is wit, and even strange grace in “the gilded scar” that defines each human life.
FROM PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
A wonderful new book from a Detroit poet. As the title alone indicates these poems have both a deep sadness to them but also a wry, even humorous remove. Here are a few words I wrote when I first read this: When the Heart Needs a Stunt Double is filled with the local references one would hope for from a writer who has lived in greater Detroit for her entire life. But she has a wide-ranging imagination. DeCillis can call up musical references from rock to the classical tradition. Her reading will move through all of literature, from Lorca to Kay Ryan to Bob Dylan. She can reference her own experience as a psychologist or as the owner of an art gallery. She knows the names for bones and muscles and will bring them into her poems. She can find the improbable connections, those wild imaginative associations that have shaped so much of contemporary poetry, or she can choose to write a poem in the voice of a dog! Her own Lebanese heritage adds a unique element. She has a good working knowledge of the received forms and meters of English verse, and uses them with subtlety and skill.
Here is just the first stanza of one of her “ars poetica” “A Taste for Duende”:
Lean in the cool night grass
that bends to your will and tilt
toward the flash and speck, where planets
tease and nymphs ignite Lorca’s
secret and shuddering, his
ghost and glimmer.
Keith Taylor, Author of Let Them Be Left: Isle Royale Poems
I – LOVE!! – THIS – BOOK – OF – POETRY!! Too often, a book with a terrific title exhausts its terrific-ness in the title. In “When the Heart Needs a Stunt Double,” the title poem in the collection, the author is just rolling up her sleeves. It’s clear that Diane DeCillis is in love with words and language. For poetry readers looking for variety without reading an anthology, this is it. I found her wide variety of poems to be (not simultaneously): familiar, tender, peculiar, clever, witty, smart, Detroit/Michigan-focused, international, and funny. I can’t remember the last time I laughed truly out loud so much while reading a collection of poetry. Subjects range from family, love (of all kinds – especially romantic and culinary), Alfred Hitchcock, how to handle a fly as a pet, art, and more. I highly recommend this book!