A Child of Two Families Reveals Herself

Carol Anderheggen Utilizes the Vast Patina of Nature to Study Life as an Adopted Child

This review was originally published April, 2019 for Vocal.Media. It may have been subject to some editing changes.

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Carol Anderheggen draws her the readers of her work inside her poetic world,”…this space called home…,” where “there are no safe harbors / only life rafts / here and there…” In her 2017 poetry collection Born-child, published by Finishing Line Press, Anderheggen explores the depths of internal consternation that can be found in a child of adoption. In this particular work, “home” is not depicted in its traditional sense as comforting or warm. The feelings of comfort and happiness are instead found emanating from the natural world, “in the marsh,” “…the child rises, / touches the earth goodbye…” and is able to find a bliss which lets her “…believe for an instant / that there were not / wolves at my doorstep…”

The collection itself is a thin little book and yet it is quite impactful in its delivery of breathtaking imagery, and decisive language. Even the cover, a black and white photograph, which is slightly off kilter, makes quite a lasting impression. A stocky girl stares almost reproachfully at the photographer, even at the reader. Her seemingly roiling bitterness in that captured moment transcending time. And yet, Anderheggen notes that “Gulls / grab the time / flinging it high / about us / and we, / we are swept / as on the waves…”

The poems, which the bold little girl guards so resolutely, reach out to, and then retreat from, the reader as the ever present water, fresh or salt, does.

Anderheggen uses the surrounding natural world, particularly the element of water, as a major backdrop in many of the pieces. In the poem “Sin and Flesh Brook, Tiverton,” she writes, “Their church is Sin and Flesh Book / teeming with early morning life” where “…lilies of the valley / surround a resurrection altar / of stones and tangles of roots.” The execution of this serene piece allows the readers to slip out of armchairs, or whatever spot they have nestled themselves into to read this book, and onto this quiet, grassy bank. There, they will listen as “…spiders scatter to salvage their webs, and birds reassemble…” Readers will find themselves nodding in affirmation when the speaker comments, “I have leafed all morning / in this book of poetry / leaves falling endlessly falling…”

Anderheggen studies family with all its twists and complications intently in this collection. “No no dear woman / whom I was forced to call mother all these years / no no dear frustrated woman…” carries the sting of salt sprinkled liberally into a wound. But in “The Gift of the Cove,” Anderheggen chronicles a tender, loving mother-daughter relationship. Here, the speaker’s daughter invites her “…into her private world of beachcombing.” Instead of fighting and pushing each other away these two “…become intimates, / awash in the patina of the summer sunset. / Our angry passions no longer entwine, choking us. / This, a sufficient gift from a sufficient god.”

Anderheggen has great command of her writing style. While her pieces are not all one flavor, the complete text of Born-child is, as former Rhode Island Poet Laureate Lisa Starr reports, “…a bold and seamless collection…” The tone of the work can actually be emphasized by a passage in “Passing the Torch.” The text as a whole feels to be “a little mermaid ready / to learn the siren’s call / from the flesh of a master.” Words ready to be imbued with vitality through their engagement with the reader.

Carol Anderheggen’s previous collection Writing Down Cancer was published in 2015. Aside from being a published poet, Anderheggen is also a contributing member of Ocean State Poets, a Rhode Island group of poets dedicated to bringing poetry to all, including to those individuals in prisons, senior centers, and assisted living facilities.


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