Heise, Thomas 1971-
Heise, Thomas 1971-
Writing residency, Millay Colony for the Arts, 2003; Gulf Coast prize for poetry, 2004; dean's fellowship, New York University; Robert Frost fellowship for poetry, Middlebury College, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, 2006.
Horror Vacui: Poems, Sarabande Books (Louisville, KY), 2006.
The title of Thomas Heise's first book, Horror Vacui: Poems, is Latin for "fear of empty spaces." As Heise explained in an interview published on the Sarabande Books Web site, many types of art—including Islamic tile patterns and medieval illuminated manuscripts—possess a "shared sense of anxiety over the presence of … any manifestation of absence…. The idea that emptiness or absence might be the primary condition of one's art … is compelling for me."
Heise "brings this ‘terror of the vacuum’ to the page," wrote reviewer Claire Caldwell in the McGill Daily. "Horror Vacui is rife with ideas and images of the incomplete. The collection darkly portrays the title's concept." Many of the poems refer to death, and particularly to the death of Heise's father. Heise grew up in Florida with his mother after his parents divorced, and his father's absence became a central obsession. The poet noted in the interview: "I wrote the collection's title poem, as well as some other poems in the book, as a way of knowing him. But I found that he became increasingly unknowable the more that I pursued him in writing." Poetry, Heise added, "does not add to our insight of the world, does not add to our collective understanding by making the world knowable. Rather, it both reveals and makes the world strange."
Calling Horror Vacui a "substantial" first book, Bert Almon observed in the Montreal Review of Books that Heise's poems are "strong on menacing atmosphere and short on explicit meanings, but it is clear that like Blaise Pascal, Heise is frightened by the eternal silence of the infinite spaces." Noting the striking "tactility" in the poems, Bookslut contributor Jason B. Jones concluded that "there isn't much shelter in this book, much less reparation against loss, but there is life in the poems … and though that's not comfort, exactly, it isn't nothing."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Colorado Review, summer, 2006, review of Horror Vacui: Poems.
McGill Daily (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), November 9, 2006, Claire Caldwell, "If I Should Die Today."
Montreal Review of Books, fall- winter, 2006, Bert Almon, review of Horror Vacui.
Publishers Weekly, March 13, 2006, review of Horror Vacui, p. 43.
Bookslut,http://www.bookslut.com/ (November, 2006), Jason B. Jones, review of Horror Vacui.
Boxcar Poetry Review,http://boxcarpoetry.com/ (August 23, 2007), "The Lyric Leap: A Conversation between Thomas Heise and Jason Schneiderman," interview with author.
Constant Critic,http://www.constantcritic.com/ (August 23, 2007), review of Horror Vacui.
New York University Web site,http://www.nyu.edu/fas/NewsEvents/ (July 27, 2007), "Faculty of Arts and Sciences News."
Sarabande Books Web site,http://www.sarabandebooks.org/ (July 27, 2007), "Interview with Thomas Heise."
Thomas Heise Faculty Page,http://www.arts.mcgill.ca/English/ (July 27, 2007).