Illusionary Heart Illusionary Heart by Vanessa Vendola

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Love and gratitude are the prevailing themes in Illusionary Heart: Peoms of Life and Love and Essence by poets Vanessa Vendola and Peggy Neuman. Vendola is a regular performer on the Open Mic circuit in Raleigh and Neuman is primarily a visual artist who focuses on the American Southwest. Illusionary Heart is illustrated by Brazilian Gisele Bes. A long time in the making, you can tell how joyous the authors’ words are as they leap off of the page and connect with the surrounding poems. For instance, the hologram is the prevailing image in “Hologram” by Vendola and “Hologram Shoes” by Neuman. Their verse meshes well with each other, and Bes’s illustrations complete the reader’s expectations of discovering words of love, life and essence.
The book opens with three essence poems about the authors, with accompanying illustrations that are some of the best in the collection. Bes draws her female figures with sturdy legs, curvy hips and arms. These ink-women are grounded to the earth as they meditate, dream and create. Their legs are either dancing or walking and their arms are swinging to the sky, full of childlike joy.
Neuman’s poems are longer and more imagistic than Vendola’s, whose strengths lie in her compact essence poems, such as “Intimacy,” a favorite of mine because it is personal and authentic:

Gradually and intentionally
I reach for you
As I am allowing my heart to open
For a softer and gentler experience
In an environment of
Peace and Harmony
I set sail my mind and soul
While discovering my Passions and Goals
Expressing the joyfulness I feel within

In “The Sea” one of Neuman’s stronger poems, the waves are “pure as white palominos/stampeding over me/trampling the pain without and within.” The speaker is in pain and she’s able to transmit this pain via her water images of tears, ocean, and baptism. Neuman is adept at handling the mixed message. In her poems the speaker may be sad, lonely and afraid, yet they all choose to look within and face their demons. Such is the case with “Alone.”

I’ve come to Taos to look within
To listen in this vast lonely desert
To the voices that spurred my separating
to leave the past

I listened to that voice and I left
Even as this monstrous and menacing fear
settled overhead like a great black demon
that set my heart to stopping

Though at this moment
Aloneness is my state of being
It is the pathway to the growth
Into my wholeness

These three women have shared their talents and hearts with us in this inspiring collection. These artists had a vision and Illusionary Heartis is their result. I’ll close with these words from Vendola that show us what finding our own path is all about: “I am perfect the way I am/I do not ask for an okay from anyone/I am here in the now/There is no other place to be.”

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