Stark moments of admission are used to perfection in the centerpiece sonnet series, "Thirteen Months," the collection's highlight. Distilled emotion over the illness and death of an estranged husband ranges in tone from the dark humor that compares the marriage to a used car to the elegiac imagery of protecting the family garden from frost. The shock of seeing the deceased in his casket, looking like a cross between Clark Gable and Dracula, seasons the collection, recurring in ruminations on the various ways a body is prepared at death and the story of a mother who dies while sneezing.
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"When the heat of the passionate tongue encounters, by winter's laws, the frozen surface of life's betrayals, a 'smarting / mouth, ' bleeding, freed, cooled by snow--speaks with a colder, finer precision. This is Thompson's own metaphor for the self that survives by speech--hers with eloquent mockery, rueful playfulness, candor, sheer nerve, words that 'make / that long run / down black keys. . .' such a lively cascade of tempered sound, the heaviness of truth lightened by mastery of style."--Eleanor Wilner
"Maybe what we conceive of as the heart is really the attentiveness we bring to our own lives. In poems that are as intense in their candor as in their craft, Mary Jo Thompson's attention is fearless, vulnerable, and gorgeous. Stunt Heart surveys the heart's desires and its failings and finds a world where the past is 'helixed inside us' and 'crows are loud, incessant.' Here there is no escaping grief, but there's no escaping joy, either. Unabashed even in the face of pain, Thompson keeps reminding us of the heart's, and poetry's great stunt: 'We will talk to the end / in that way love // has taught us."--Rick Barot