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Heartbreak Tree by Pauletta Hansel

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These very self-aware poems center on Pauletta Hansel’s youth when she was living in Jackson, Kentucky, the county seat of Breathitt County, where her parents were on the faculty of Lees Junior College. This county has been known variously as “Bloody Breathitt,” for the mountain feuds there that took lives or “Turner’s Farm” for its County Judge, Marie Turner, who thwarted all efforts to bring it progress in favor of its status quo. The powerful and profound title poem is characteristically brief and to-the-point. It presents the magnolia tree as representing the heartbreak of aging because it can show bud, blossom, and decay all on the same branch. This poem is worthy as a title poem because that is the way that life progresses, and these poems provide inside into n examined life. “Pauletta Hansel's poems were born in the hardscrabble mountains of Kentucky. The splendor of their moments of beauty that spring up like ‘ironweed purpling/ the spent fields’ seems earned, deserved.” -Michael Simms. “Heartbreak Tree is a gorgeous book, carefully assembled from flowers, dirt, graveyards, family memories, and letters to the poet's younger self. It's a love story to a place and a people, an excavation, a time capsule, a fierce inquiry and a song. Read it once for the pleasure of the honest voice, read it again for the beauty of the land and lamentation at its destruction, and keep reading it because its heartbeat, however specifically regional, is the same that pulses through all of us, whispering "home, home, home." - Alison Luterman. The poet, Pauletta Hansel, is the author of eight previous poetry collections. She has lived in Cincinnati most of her adult life.

Lake Dallas, Texas: Mudville Publishing, 2022. 96 pages. Trade paperback.