Adrian Arias unpacks “Heart Strong”

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Adrian Arias. Photo by Meklit Hedero

Adrian Arias, poet, visual and performing artist was a judge for the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Awards 2014. Arias explains why he chose “Heart Strong, Selected poems 2000-2012 by Nina Serrano.” Adrian Arias writes:

Why Nina?

In her poem “I Have Five Things To Say” Nina says, (page 112)

I entered this world right on time
as an infant on September 1st of 1934
in the Charity Ward
Unlike my mother who was born
In a hallway because of crowding …
She smiles and laughs whenever
You look at her

And 80 years later Nina is here, smiling, with 3 hearts, full of blood and poems, and this book “Heart Strong.” It is a powerful suitcase full of dresses, the poetic and necessary dresses for every day life.

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Heart Strong cover. Art and design by Adrian Arias.

Thirteen years of poetry in one book. Here in “Heart Strong” you open this suitcase of poems and choose a dress for the “Transformative Power of Intimacy” (page 95)

The cosmos holds you
with a tender embrace
stars sea and mellow moon
seem everlasting
love eternal
leaves you a mortal kiss of your memory
that dies with you

Nina has the power to connect reality with dreams, childhood with activism…(page 134)

At five, my first movie
there were men on horses killing each other
lots of men and lots of noise
lots of dust from horses hooves
I t was the frontier war to own America
but I didn’t like the killing
I left the dark theater
But the killing never stopped”

Nina gives us special moments in the kitchen cutting spinach (page 80)

Chop chop into long strips one way
chop chop the other way
like rows of dominoes they fall
into sizzling oil sprinkled with salt”

The simplicity of some poems transport me into profound concepts (page 45)

My shoe, me and an elephant
obey the law of gravity
it is not a question of will, instinct or hunger
it is our basic condition”…

Nina teaches us to see in darkness (page 116)

Close your eyes in the dark
you picture the sun
you are learning to see in darkness
squinting fear into courage”…

yes, I learn from this book, in each of its ten sections you can learn and travel, and dress in a poem experience, a poem life, and also miss somebody in the happy hour (page 98)

Lonely as the antiseptic bar rag
slopped across the counter
never mind the hockey game
played on two tv sets at either end
when the corn chips are gone
and the ice melts
I still miss you”

…Mmmhhhh, el amor, the collective intelligence, the passion and commitment, songs of liberation, from Sandinistas until Occupy, poems of triumph and surrender, fear, menopause, glory, sueños… (page 20)

Every night
the possibility of dreams
every morning
the chance to live them out
and to remember…”

…and … “It’s Not a Joke” (page 120)

Knock Knock!
Who´s there?
Poem
Poem who?
Poem stuck between the heart and the page

Sometimes pages of love, or pages of the “Musical Money” (page 68)

Capitalism hurries
converting time into money
driving us sink into
mother Earth…
… spoiling water and air in a
corre corre rush rush
corre corre rush rush…

Nina and the sounds, the words, Nina y el corazón, the heart of her friends, sometimes with names like Daniel, Mary, Neruda, Roque, El Che, Anthony, sometimes the universe… (page 11)

Night after night…

Nina and “The crescent Luna smiling”…

Nina give us this book as a mirror, as a penetrating reflection of her life, that is in many ways our life, because we are not invisible (page 2 )

I am so visible
I have never been as visible as
At this moment
There have been times when
I have said “I am invisible”

But Nina with “Heart Strong” teaches us to be absolutely visible, thank you Nina Serrano, and thank you Paul Richards, for this beautiful edition and the great support that you and Estuary Press gives to one of the iconic poets in America now, Nina Serrano, gracias.

Adrián Arias, December 3, 2014


Comments

Adrian Arias unpacks “Heart Strong” — 1 Comment

  1. Thank you,Adrian Arias and thank you, Nina, for your luminous poems which, in a harsh world sing love. “Fearless love’s the only defense…..”

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