Heather Sweeney’s Dear Marshall, Language Is Our Only Wilderness, is a prose weave of declaration, story, romance, LA repository, of a wild child who is also a “swan on a diving board” with, echoes of the Welsh Cad Goddeu (“I was a string on a harp.”) with its assertive declarative sentences, simple but pithy, that weave a relational intimacy. “I am a heightened rumor”. “Today I am a wave of rust”. I am an unspoken angle”. Who is Marshall? A device, a fellow traveler, a “gentleman”, a lover, the narrative suggests, a happy construct to play against. This is a charming book which teases and feels current, like a life in language you could be living in 2020.
There is a fine line between fiction and fact and Heather Sweeney balances on this filament, stating what most of us are thinking but would never dare to reveal. In Sweeney’s distinctive text, her language pulsates with the energy of “a circumference of birds.” There’s a tonal irreverence that masks a deep and abiding vulnerability and a deep and abiding beauty. In this epistolary investigation of self, we find our own thoughts echoed. I am struck by her honesty. It’s so raw and exposed and brave. If you’re feeling afraid, or feeling like no one understands, read this. It will do its part in saving you. As Sweeney tells us, “language is our only wilderness” and she shows us that this is where we might just find ourselves and all our luminous truths.
Heather Sweeney's writing transcends genre, and goes straight for the throat: it speaks confidently to the gutted, grief-infested, ecstatic gulf in all of us. Sweeney writes, "I am not on the syllabus," and follows through. This is a literary journey so glorious in its deeply human contradictions, a piece that is "in love with color but wear[ing] black," so gorgeous in its fragmentation that it can only come from the white hot center of being alive. Dear Marshall, Language is Our Only Wilderness is the book we're most looking forward to howling over this year. All readers, writers, yearners, and language-lovers don't know yet how much they need it. “
Erin Slaughter & Lena Ziegler, Editors & Co-Founders of The Hunger
Heather C Sweeney, she/her, lives in San Diego where she writes, teaches and does visual art. She studied at Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics where she was the Allen Ginsberg Fellow. Her chapbooks include Just Let Me Have This (Selcouth Station Press) and Same Bitch, Different Era: The Real Housewives Poems (above/ground press). She is also the author of the collection, Call Me California (Finishing Line Press).