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  • Brittany Torres Rivera

Iron into Flower by Yvette Neisser























$19.99 | 2022 | pp. 84 | Finishing Line Press|

ISBN: 979-8-88838-003-1


 

“As the years have etched rings around my life / first with you, then without you.”

– Yvette Neisser, Iron Into Flower


A collection of poems that follows the seasons through a chronology of the poet-speaker’s life, Yvette Neisser’s Iron Into Flower is a story of love, heartbreak, and rebirth.


The five sections of this collection relate to different eras in the poet-speaker’s life and personal history. Section I begins with prayer-like observations in “Tea” that establish the narrator as a witness, taking in the behaviors of her elders with the keen eye she would later turn inward: “Let the cup have an angled rim. / Let it be white and shaped like petals, / the handle small enough / to hold with three fingers.” The same is true of “Compass Points,” in which Neisser uses natural allusions to describe differences between her and her father’s life philosophies. Section II takes the reader further back in time to, as Neisser put it, process “historical and current events through the lens of [her] family history and Jewish heritage.” Spanning generations, the major moments in Neisser’s are marked in Iron Into Flower via shifts between seasons.


Throughout the collection, Neisser superimposes her emotions and experiences onto the natural landscape. The poems in section III tell of the beginning of the poet-speaker’s marriage and the birth of her child with soft light and pink skies. However, section IV begins with autumnal images of grief: “as orange and red cascade / and crumble…Let go / as the trees do.” Neisser laments a winter of withering and fragility that reflect her divorce and depression. “I lost weight, my hair thinned, my skin became pale,” she told me. “I lost touch with all the things that make life enriching.” However, as the poet-speaker overcomes her loss, so too does nature begin to flourish; section V sees Neisser redefining herself, both in the abstract and in the physical body. Neisser shared that “a reawakening of sexual desire came along” with her recovery from depression. Thus, muted, darkened images are replaced by the dynamic blooming of spring and sensuality in poems like “Texture”: “Could I be that brazen, / that vulnerable. Could I be / that soft all the time.” 


Beyond themes of rebirth through natural allegory, Iron Into Flower touches on the significance of names as a tether to identity. The poem “Neisser" initiates the final section of the collection, declaring a return to her maiden name as a reclamation of selfhood: “I take Neisser to be my beloved name / in love and anger, sickness and health.” “Probing the history and context of my names (current and former) was a meaningful way to explore my personal and family identities,” she told me, explaining that her surname is her only connection to her German heritage. Tracing her names back through the collection, readers can see their influence on Neisser’s self-definition; in “What You Left Behind,” she writes, “Your last name…the hollow of its vowels.” And, earlier, in “Yvette,” the narrator describes several histories which led to a name that would predict the Spanish she would later “grow into” and identify with.



 

Brittany Torres Rivera is a bilingual, Puerto Rican writer. She graduated from Florida International University with a BA in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. Brittany is an alumna of the Fulbright Program and currently works as an Editorial and Administrative Assistant at Graywolf Press.


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