Review of Kathy Parker's 'The Unravelled Heart'

Wildlings, today Managing Editor Amanda McLeod shares her thoughts on Featured Artist Kathy Parker's collection, The Unravelled Heart. You can purchase a copy from the author here.

Kathy Parker’s debut The Unravelled Heart is a collection of poetry and prose pieces that explore the darkness of abuse, the aftermath of having your world shattered, and what it takes to overcome it. Part poetry collection, part journal entries, and part manifesto, the book is not afraid to plumb the depths of despair in its search for sparks of light.

The book is divided into sections, reminiscent of Rupi Kaur’s The Sun and Her Flowers; each tracing a stage of her journey, although Parker’s writing style is quite different. This book is an exquisite blend of poetry woven with stories of bravery, forgiveness and freedom. Parts of it read like a series of love letters - tender moments in which Kathy consoles her past self, with a compassion that past self never experienced. In the piece ‘When Love Isn’t Enough’, she opens with the voice of an older, wiser sister:

I know you love him, dear heart.
Love is enough, you tell yourself.
But deep in the hollow of places you don’t want to explore, you know it isn’t.

She revisits the past holding the strength of survival, and this overcoming echoes in the works that grapple with the darkest moments. In ‘Haunted Houses’, she writes:

We’re all just haunted houses
Yet to understand
How frighteningly beautiful
We really are.

As she works through the process of moving from surviving towards repair, Parker finds a stunning inner fire that resonates on the page, as she harnesses a righteous anger towards those who damaged her. She doesn’t spit venom, but blazes with a dignified strength as she writes fierce replies to the ghosts of her past, informing them they no longer hold power over her. This is captured perfectly in the ending of the poem ‘Viking Funeral’:

Now it is you who lies among embers while I am
alight with the blaze of a thousand stars inside my soul.

No longer burning for you, but for me.
In the death of your memory, I am raised to life.

The Unravelled Heart is a tightly woven collection. Its themes of trauma and abuse, love and loss, recovery and healing are presented in an accessible and relatable way. Kathy Parker has a gift for finding the diamonds in mounds of coal, and she mines them effectively. Even the most horrific moments in the story have a quiet sparkle as Kathy holds them up to the light. This is a book for those who’ve lived through trauma, and those who love them. Parker’s resilience, and her unwillingness to keep silent, forge in this collection a manual of hope and repair. She will convince you that even the most unravelled heart can be gently stitched back together.