Highlighted by The Worcester Review
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Meet Our May Massachusetts Poet in the Spotlight: Heather Treseler

Highlighted by The Worcester Review

Heather Treseler, winner of the Frank O’Hara poetry prize (2016) and runner-up for the Missouri Review’s Editors’ Prize (2017), is an associate professor of English at Worcester State University, where she teaches creative writing and American literature. 

Her poems and essays appear in Boston Review, Harvard Review, Iowa Review, Pleiades, Boulevard, The Worcester Review, The Missouri Review, Notre Dame Review, The Weekly Standard, and Southern Poetry Review, among other journals. She has also published essays in four scholarly books about postwar American poets Elizabeth Bishop and John Berryman, among others. 

In 2017-18, she will be a Visiting Research Associate at the Brandeis University Women’s Studies Research Center, finishing a collection of poems that recasts stories from classical mythology. 

Her work has received support from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Endowment for the Humanities. 


Poetic Profession   

"Language is our organic instrument, the harp and the Harley Davidson, the delicate strings and the drive shaft, our means of reckoning a way forward. Without words, we are homeless, and I think of poems as offering us provisional shelter and provocation when we are most in need of what can be found there. "

Persephone’s Postcard

The dead, they are always descending
   like mustachioed men in Magritte’s 
painting, so many bowler hats sailing
   through a pale blue Belgian sky.

Heavy souls—freighted with evil,
   leaden sorrows, or the insomniac
stare of bald regret—crash all night
   against the stone gates of Hades 

and stumble, wrecked, along the neon 
   strip mall on the far side of Styx, 
a tinsel town where hawkers sell 
   the newbies musky perfumes, 

condensed from their memories, 
   and half-hour holograms of any 
one beloved thing: pets or dill pickles, 
   a niece or a ball glove, something

to cop one last recessional feel. All 
   night, unhappy shades rain on 
the earthen roof of the root-cellar 
   boudoir I share with my husband 

who promised, after snatching me 
   from behind, from the white flowers 
of Nysa, that I’d grow used to traffic 
   of the dead, the continual thump 

of souls in the night, above my head, 
   like the asphalt slap of a slowly 
deflating basketball. He promised, 
   wielding his bird-tipped scepter, 

to make in me another music in which 
   I’d hear myself without my jealous 
mother’s cautionary antiphon. In truth, 
   though Hades stole me to his lair,

he gave me to my pleasure, enticing me 
  to be greedy, to take and take his potent 
seed into my store until I glowed dark 
   with satisfactions. His lust and coy 

protest at my departures came to mark 
   time, to cadence more than our seasonal 
passions. Between the knock of souls 
   above and our tender, mock-Bartók below, 

small sprays of earth fell almost nightly 
   from our ceiling. Most mornings, I wake 
to the taste of summered grass, soil raked 
   through my hair, a snail burrowing 

his glistening trail into loamy blankets 
   where Hades turns, each winter night, 
for the press of my lips and obliging limbs 
   to receive him, his almost mythic want: 

thanatos seeking eros to spring him to life 
   again, granting some vital answer 
to death’s absolute value of Zed. 
   Once Demeter’s obedient daughter, 

cosseted to her buxom pride, now wife 
   to a god of night who bears it all 
away: I tell you, friend, in our green 
   unruly nocturnes, often mistaken 

for raw shades’ rueful laughter, there’s 
   this reminder: Hades husbands 
a fertile knowing beauty, but I 
   remain death’s regnant queen. 


previously published in The Missouri Review, Spring 2017

The Worcester Review is the annual literary magazine of The Worcester County Poetry Association. Since it's inaugural issue in 1972, it has evolved to celebrate the rich literary history of Central Massachusetts, enhance it with work from beyond that region, and serve as a conduit to promote that richness to a national audience. We are all-volunteer organization, independent from any university or other institution. All submissions are read by our editors; we don't prescreen submissions. You can learn more at our website: www.theworcesterreview.org

Massachusetts Poet in the Spotlight is a monthly installment from Mass Poetry. Each month we shine the spotlight on a poet affiliated with, and nominated by, one of our poetry partners.

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