A Reading with Stefania Heim and Sandra Lim

Here our our introductory notes prepared by Jared with assistance from Berl's interns, Samantha Maldonado and Victor Allen:

“Memento mori” hovers over both poets’ books tonight: Sandra’s Opens w image of Carcass of beef

and then the line on p 2 “Even a propped skull is human nature”  “I am shot to death’ –Heim in a book full of beheading, bodies with holes in them, Holofernes (beheaded), etc.  Both poets harness mystery (both the titles of their recent books suggest an expansiveness extending beyond the horizon, a maybe infinity that acts a corrective to death and solitude, the stuff we know.

“nature that begins with the unknowable and extends with more monotonous hills” – Sandra Lim

“Monochromatic searching for a monochromatic soul” –Stefania Heim

“lets get on our bicycles and ride around in the dark. In absence. In educated guess” - Stefania Heim

“Isn’t this a relationship with your death too to fall in love with your inscrutable life” - Sandra Lim

difference, Stefania is surreal, Sandra is interested in the trans-real or the hyper-real. “inside every world is another world trying to get out”

psychological SH vs theological SL.

SH is tight, cut to the bone, static like a photogrpahic, SL is more fluid, with sentences that move like brushstrokes. SH photo SL Painting

Finally color:

SH pink + purple, colors of the inside of the body “wild pink tree” “strange pink sky” “rosy thoughts”  (SL has by way of contrast: “feelings keep opening their myriad dark flowers for you, their thousand petals of thought.)

SL: incarnadined cheeks, flower bouquet, maraschino cherry snow white+rose red

"my concavity and my chest"-SH  “when this life is over, describe to me how its concave and convex forms are or are not” -SL

(memento vivere)



The Wilderness is about the wilderness within the self, the wilderness that emerges through writing.

Engaging “my lower self” and how writing does this “my soul, it wants to stay up, write through the night”

Sometimes it feels like Sandra’s poems take place outside the universe, as when writing about belief she offers “people tend to believe god believes what they believe” or zooming out from mentioning the suicide of an uncle we arrive suddenly on the pitch black line “think of a needle dropped into the sea”. In this voice of prophet we get these oratorical utterances like: “Maybe you can’t penetrate events with reportage but facts have a sly, unanswerable texture that appears social” and “We know what it’s like to fall in love and be disassembled but we still want to pull death right off the bodies of one another”.  Prophecy that lands occasionally on an I who is a person who goes to concerts or mixes fancy cocktails and dreams of being inanimate “an odd Victorian mansion in a field of wheat” or When I grow up I want to be lightning” So though this work feels sybilline the prophet is just another reader watching the plot unfold-- “I just want to know what happens” 


A compact writer – a chapbook 3 poems – the chutzpah, the confidence/stylishness/poise to write 3 poems and say here it is, this is a chapbook.

Victor: submerged connections between strange, arresting images deployed in honed poems. effortless. this impression is given to us via the short length of the poems and the clarity of the language” Victor called her poems “plates of unexpectedness” and we were all struck by the pervasive aura of mystery hovering “cloud of heads” though the poems are crystalline.

The book is concerned with distance, landscape and desire. How desire moving outwards, across distances, mapping a landscape, and also inward, mapping a self.

A book about desire and how a self is built out of desires. I think of voltage, or electricity. Like the gap between lightning strike and rumble, when counting off seconds maps a distance in miles to the arbitrary spot where the bolt has hit and everything is singed: “A sound, not unlike the thrum of sustained thunder”

Also, it makes me think of chess, how the landscape of the board is the unexpected result of a series of interlocking maneuvers that are constantly creating the contemporary situation:

“it’s a dance of mechanics” ... “we move each other around”

a book in which there is always a desire that points somewhere beyond—over the next hill, out of frame, at the edge of an aperture:  “what each admires is afar” “the water is farther off” “everyone else who matters hovers whisperingly off screen” “it isn’t here you wait, it’s around the bend” “all night dreaming at the edge of a cliff” “at the mouth of the bay” "blank where the sky has just opened up” 

Theme: "motherhood has made me honest"/ anxiety about relationships “wife” “wed to it she is red” “a man is crawling and a woman is on fire”

Fear about relationships? "eventually tempered to a nice hostility” Stakes about being a wife and a mother. commitment “this thing is total” 

Samantha on Stefania: to read this is to peer into the dream journal of a stranger who you can’t identify but you feel you’ve met before. Poems weird, lonely and lovely. Heim comments on the dream world in which the poems take place: today there’s no one who doesn’t look like someone I miss” and these poems reach into these in between spaces – between you and the person you want to be with, between where you are and where you wish you were.

An attempt to remember and write down dream but also how writing down the dream has the effect of ending it or even causing it to be forgotten. “What I fear is transformation” Stefania writes.