I first met Heather Altfeld at Squaw Valley Community of Writers. We lived in the same house, and daily I would be awed by what she produced overnight. She has been published in Narrative and ZYZYVA and other prestigious magazines, and her first book recently won a prize from Poets@Work, and is due out this summer. Heather’s poems are often long, complex, their images a mix of the daily and the transcendent:
One dizzy sparrow grazes the windshield of a Camry
halfway back from Thanksgiving in Des Moines,
and a hundred and ninety-two cars trailing behind
on black ice skitter and crash outside Battle Creek.
Someone calls an ambulance,
someone else calls the newspaper;
somewhere in the rubble of the wreckage someone dies
so quickly that their whole life ends
before the telephone is answered.
Somewhere the sparrow
will be worshipped as a god.
Heather’s poems often deal with death, with suffering, with the strangeness of dreams, of childhood, with the wildness under the surface of the daily. She has the ability to mix the surreal with the very real, making the poem come to life. She also is a poet of Judaism, bringing Maimonides, the Talmud, and ritual practices into her work without strain, producing a deep resonance.
I admire the way Heather includes children in her poems, her ability to find time to write despite a full teaching load, three children, and myriad responsibilities. It’s inspiring to read her work, and I feel lucky to have come to know her. --Meryl Natchez, poet of the week.