Although there are no direct allusions to it in her poems, Heather Allen has clearly learned from the classical Chinese tradition how to listen to the world around her and how to allow it to speak through her, through observations of light and shadow and the turning seasons. As with her longtime practice of Tai Chi and her study of traditional Chinese medicine, her poetic practice leaves no room for self-indulgence, but rather seems to arise as naturally as leaf to branch. Hers is the temporal world of constant flux, but a world illuminated by a light that lies beyond, mysterious, essential, and alive.
Black trees that set
Their nets in fog, its waters
Rising to their knees,
And catch in a smoky mesh
A school of yellow leaves.
“Allen translates her intimate knowledge of a particular lake and its surrounding forest into articulate observations, making the place almost tangible to the reader.” —Publishers Weekly
“Ms. Allen’s work contrasts sharply with the current craze for narcissistic exhibitionism, but these poems are by no means impersonal: a sensibility informs the observed and recorded and includes its own emotional responses. Leaving a Shadow is unusual, too, in its coherence; the focus of the whole collection recapitulates the quality of its component parts… Her lines, images, and stanzas have emerged with the musicality that is inseparable from precision.” —Denise Levertov