Anthony McCann, I Heart Your Fate

Publisher: Wave Books

2011, 83 pages, paperback, $16

reading anthony mccann is like bringing a beautiful baby home. You are surprised when you turn around with a warm bottle and find your hairy Uncle Leonard in the highchair, smoking his cigarette above a bowl of cereal. As you rub your eyes in disbelief, you realize Leonard is gone and in his place is a basset hound reading the morning paper. You grab the paper away from him and bend over to inspect his collar. It reads, “My body is here / near the stove.” McCann’s I Heart your Fate is a book of transformation, vivid imagery, surprise, surrealism, and bold humor.

We all know how to take our clothes off, but for McCann this does not stop at boxer briefs. Throughout the collection, he is constantly pulling at the zipper of his body, allowing his inner-voice to experience a breath of fresh air without the assistance of lungs. In “Of the Mockingbird,” the reader really sees McCann’s ability to disconnect the physical from the vocal:

So that once again, beloved readers,

I find that I have died. I die

each time inside my body

each time I eat your food-

O World

(By which I always mean THE LIGHT)

Or let’s just say

there’s a forehead

between my body and the light

and it deactivates the World

The function of voice and language is something that McCann really speaks to (no pun intended). The ability to create worlds or objects through language is beautifully depicted in the ending of “Omoa (Time of the Grackle)”:

And so, slick with aftergrease,

we reach a place

where each

is given names.

The same

bare bulb


in the shack of the police as

Dusk, sleepwalking,

leaks up through all of the terms.

Any sound

that falls now

from your mouth

becomes land or

food for birds

McCann’s use of language does not serve solely as a mechanism for creation but also as a vehicle that breaks down in meaning and catapults into image. This is demonstrated in the last stanza of “The Assistant,” by using a simile to compare the size of eagles to a part of speech, nouns.

Later we saw


we saw


big as nouns

McCann’s mastery of repetition is on display throughout the collection. This can be seen specifically with “Dear Catholic Church,” where the author’s use of humor is also at its best. Like the nun who slaps the child with a ruler for sneaking candy into prayer study, McCann dons the habit and ends his poem with a reprimand to the church, “Dear Catholic church / I forbid you.” Both in this poem and others, the author’s use of repetition creates a feeling of interconnectedness and propels transformation. These are the two birds that the author kills with one stone, although after reading this collection the reader may very well believe this author has an entire arsenal of stones in his backyard.

Just once in my life

I want to see a real gargoyle

eat a live human soul

like a peach

from a bowl of cream

which is to say

I wan to see a live

human gargoyle

eat a peach

from a world bowl of


and in this way

I will never be your man

I feel as if I cannot leave this collection without praising the vagina that is so lovingly referred to as the “buttery vulva” within “In the Visitor’s Locker Room.” This poem displays McCann’s eye for lushness (in language, of course). The syntax throughout the collection is accessible without being overly simple and vivid without drowning the reader.

The night is not a mirror

This night is not the Void

It’s a wonderful vagina

You’ve been standing here for years

McCann’s book is funny, beautifully crafted, challenging, and refreshing. Don’t be fooled by the unassuming cover with plain black text; inside there are: peaches, mockingbirds, nouns, cocaine, milk, bees, and the wrinkled bloom of the labia. If the labia don’t convince you to read this mesmerizing collection, then I don’t know what will.

—Luisa Muradyan