Art Beat: Nature Olympics

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Nature’s Olympics (Wipf and Stock, 2021) is Janet Heller’s fourth book of poetry. Divided into four sections, one for each season, Nature’s Olympics has an accessible style and a poetic approach. This is important to Heller – that anyone, regardless of age, can read his poetry and understand it. But she also tackles adult themes, the intersection of political issues, feminism and religion with nature.

Interview with Janet Heller

“My previous collections had scattered nature poems, but they’re just nature poems,” says Heller. “The poems in this book deal with the four seasons of the year – that’s how the book is organized, in four sections…in general, my poems are very concise. I try to use as few words as possible to express my ideas. Poems focus on all kinds of plants, trees, animals, and birds, and poem forms include haiku, tanka, sonnets, and free verse. And I try to make my poems as accessible as possible. I’m not trying to write just for people with PhDs. I want everyone to be able to read and understand my work.

Jennifer Helner

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Nature’s Olympics poetry book cover

Heller says she was heavily influenced by the tradition of oral ballads, also known for being an accessible form of writing, telling stories and describing situations clearly. The last poem in this collection, All Love is Equal, stands out somewhat from the other nature poems for its political orientation, as it deals instead with a Supreme Court decision in June 2013, declaring that the Defense Act marriage is unconstitutional “as a deprivation”. freedom of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment.

“The poem belongs in this collection because it is about nature celebrating that decision,” says Heller. “I walked around after hearing about the Supreme Court ruling, and it seemed like all the birds, insects and animals I saw on my walk celebrating the Supreme Court ruling that same-sex marriages were legal. I thought it was unfair for some people to tell other adults they could love and marry…I thought that was one of the most important decisions ever made.

Janet Ruth Heller is a poet, literary critic, university professor, essayist, playwright and novelist. She is a past president of the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature and current president of the Michigan College English Association. Heller has a doctorate. in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago. Her other poetry books include Exodus (WordTech Communications, 2014), Folk Concert: Changing Times (Anaphora Literary Press, 2012) and Traffic Stop (Finishing Line Press, 2011). She has also published literary reviews, plays and children’s books. Heller is currently working on a memoir.


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