Seasons of the Heart: Book Review

Yolanda Grace Guerra

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Poetry offers a window into the character of an artist, as few mediums do. In Yolanda Grace Guerra’s “Seasons of the Heart”, readers are acutely aware of this window because the poet writes in a clear, straightforward voice—a voice that is compassionate, perceptive and wise.

Each poem in this collection is accompanied by a date. The poems cover approximately 40 years of effort. Although the compilation offers a thematic arrangement of the work, I tried to read the pieces in chronological order so that I could see how the poet evolved as she matured. Surprisingly, the early poems reflect, to a significant degree, the wisdom and insight of the later work.

For example, “My Father”, written in 1964, describes Ms. Guerra’s father in his declining years. The poem begins: “Each day that comes will bring the face of yesterday”. These words are arresting in their mix of simplicity and understanding. As the poem progresses, Ms. Guerra is unflinching in her observation: “I wake each day to find a gray old man—who now stumbles in the dark as he thinks of yesterday”. And finally, she ends with: “He cared for us, he must have once—he cannot be my father”. Remarkably, Ms. Guerra was only 23 when she wrote these lines.

“Seasons of the Heart” was compiled by Ms. Guerra’s daughter, Sylvia Stankewich, who has left her name out of the book. I credit her here because she has created a fine tribute to her mother and has given the rest of us a gift.

Not all the poetry in “Seasons of the Heart” is weighty and profound. Whimsy steals into the work, as in the fanciful “The Cat Who Wanted Wings”. Here we meet a “foolish” cat who wants to sprout wings. However, we are advised, if this ambition is realized, the rats will grow fat. We are left at the end with the image of a fat cat, sitting on a branch. This misguided animal tries “to tweet, but only a meow would come”.

Readers are fortunate that Yolanda Grace Guerra recorded her life as she lived it. And we are fortunate that her daughter saw the value in her mother’s words and the merit in keeping a promise to publish these poems posthumously.

I highly recommend Yolanda Grace Guerra’s “Seasons of the Heart”.

 

A. G. Moore  July, 2017

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