A Nest in the Heart
by Vivienne Popperl
In A Nest in the Heart, Vivienne Popperl conjures the lives of her ancestors to better understand their stories and their influence on her life. The poems will take the reader on a journey through Johannesburg, Europe, and the Willamette Valley of Oregon, as the poet faces the age-old question: “Where do I belong?” Influenced by the poetry of Elizabeth Woody, she explores how the body’s physical landscape intersects and resides within the natural, geographical world.
ENJOY A VIDEO OF VIVIENNE READING FROM THE BOOK:
Vivienne Popperl — A Featured Poet on The Poetry Box LIVE (March 2022)
About the Author
Vivienne Popperl lives in Portland, Oregon. Her poems have appeared in Clackamas Literary Review, Timberline Review, Cirque, Rain Magazine, The Poeming Pigeon, and other publications. She won second place in the 2021 Kay Snow Award for Poetry by Willamette Writers. Her dream landscape is Provence, Southern France, but she considers the Pacific Northwest her home.
Early Praise for A Nest in the Heart:
Depicting her Lithuanian Jewish ancestors, her childhood in Johannesburg, and her adult years in America’s Pacific Northwest, Vivienne Popperl’s poems speak to us from “inside/ a long, swaying sling/ moving from continent to continent.” Having grown up “Jo’Burg Jewish” in South Africa, Popperl evolved a remarkable, compassionate awareness of the inhumanity created by both apartheid and anti-Semitism. Calling on striking imagery and rich musical devices, employing a vibrant flair for a poem’s ability to convey whole histories in mere vignettes, she gives us a moving first collection that reaches—regardless of its vast geographic scope—“for bedrock with every step.” A Nest in the Heart is an impressive debut.
—Paulann Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate Emerita
In Vivienne Popperl’s luminous book, A Nest in the Heart, she listens for the unknowable stories of her ancestors—refugees from Lithuania, farmers and women doctors in Apartheid South Africa, letters from the dead—to come back to herself. “She kept her nerve,” Popperl says of her mother’s story, “fierce brave heart.” The same could be said for Popperl’s collection. It takes courage to tell the truth of our families, grace to make them shine. “Poems of love/ stitched/ the blue sky” she says of her youth in Johannesburg. Thankfully, throughout A Nest in the Heart, they still do.
—Claudia F. Saleeby Savage, author of Bruising Continents
In her stunning first collection, A Nest in the Heart, poet Vivienne Popperl explores the vicissitudes of family with rare lyricism. From Avraham and Sorah down to Mathilda, the poet’s mother, the poetic lines demark a compelling history and the redemption of faith. Vivienne’s ancestors wage war with a baby’s illness, trick a Russian soldier, and emigrate from Lithuania to Kopjes, South Africa. These poems are redolent with sensory imagery. “I offer my grandfather lemons/ and strawberry jam for his tea.” In the new land, children taunt one young mother’s accent but there is also time for piano lessons and games of hide and seek. One after another, family matriarchs adapt to their varied circumstances leading to Vivienne’s mother graduating from Medical School in 1939.
So many of these poems read as love letters. In gorgeous and stunning language even the most mundane tasks, the darning of a sock, “She slides the needle, a silver splinter/ trailing a red tail,” to a rhythmic Elvis singing ah’m all shook up—while Vivienne, the youngest sibling, breathlessly watches “flared skirts/ flying up and circling/ girls’ lithe waists.”
Young love blossoms in “I’ll Blame It on the Wind,” and the reader is soothed into the poet’s forever home in the Willamette Valley. This fine collection sends shivers up my spine—what beautiful words and what generous sentiments. There are many astounding lines in every poem.
—Dale Champlin, author of The Barbie Diaries and Callie Comes of Age