Susan Ward Mickelberry reviews: These Many Cold Winters of the Heart by Ryan Quinn Flanagan

Ryan Quinn Flanagan’s These Many Cold Winters of the Heart begins with an epigraph from Emily Dickinson “I am out with lanterns looking for myself,” a perfect depiction of this collection. You will be riveted from the opening poem, “I Grew Up in a Brewery Town,” where the Molson plant closes down but “people survived, they usually do” although “everyone had to pay for their beer now/and they were drinking more than ever” to the powerful “wonderful bloody magic” in “The Butterfly Hunter” near the end. Flanagan has no shortage of acute observations on everything from a humorous pair of crows and the homelessness of tents in winter, to Bob Dylan and Lawrence of Arabia. A plentiful array of humorous, everyday usually irreverent pieces, also stunning moments of awe, and sometimes addressing tough subjects without flinching, from unexpected violence and death, to family mental illness, the loss of a brother, and the suicide of a childhood friend and an uncle and its after-effects. These latter poems will sneak up on you and take your breath away. Stylistically, Flanagan is firmly in control, breaking rules when he feels like it, sliding into a staccato surrealism, and dropping back into more traditional form when he swerves toward the profound. And he does that beautifully. A favorite poem “A Giant Bear Jumps Up the Rockface Outside Sudbury, Ontario,” begins “You never realize how helpless you would actually be/if the cards came calling.” I highly recommend These Many Cold Winters of the Heart and look forward to having the book in hand.—Susan Ward Mickelberry, author of And Blackberries Grew Wild

Cover Art by Shona Flanagan
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